It’s a funny thing when you realize you know why your parents harped on you about manners and having respect for the world at large. It was part of learning to be a good citizen.
When you’re young, all those sayings and anecdotes seem like overkill, too crazy to be real. Then, well, you get out into the big bad world and realize there might not be such a thing as too crazy to be real.
“Eat your crusts, there are children starving in Africa.” This was the litany when you didn’t finish your meal. I understood I wasn’t supposed to waste food, and I should respect every morsel. But it was an abstract notion.
Now I can say I have seen pictures of starving children, and I’ve seen videos of food not eaten when it didn’t need to be wasted. Once I saw Just Eat It , a documentary about a Canadian couple that decided to try and survive on wasted food, I realized that food needs to be better valued, and distributed, in our world. Now we keep a chalkboard on the fridge reminding us of what needs to be eaten.
“Don’t litter”. I remember seeing signs on the highway that said this. It was definitely considered bad manners to be careless enough to just throw something away, not in a garbage can. As I got older, recycling became more of a part of that action.
Now I work harder to make my motto the other parts of that slogan. After scuba diving in Cozumel and seeing the piles of plastic garbage on the beaches and pieces of plastic in the ocean, I work hard to minimize my plastic use. We take our own metal straws to the movie theatre, and we won’t buy pre-packaged fruit or vegetables in plastic or foam trays. We use grocery bags made of recycled plastic for our shopping; if we forget them, we carry the groceries out in the cart.
So many small gestures in our day can make a difference. I don’t know about you, but I feel that I should make sure to consistently be a good citizen.
- “Use your napkin to wipe your mouth”. How many paper napkins get taken from dispensers, not used and thrown out? I think before I pull now, and at home we use cloth napkins that I wash with the regular laundry.
- “Say please and thank you.” In an effort to pay it forward, I make a point of using these words when I shop, including an employee’s name if I notice a nametag. I almost always get a smile, even if I don’t get a response.
- “Respect your elders.” This was about being polite when I was a kid, like giving up your seat on the bus. Now I want to include valuing their opinion, listening to their stories, learning the traditions they remember.
All these are little things.
They each take a moment out of our day. But don’t we say that life is made up of the little things?
I grew up on the Prairies, and my parents both came from families that had been on the Prairies for generations. I believe that part of my heritage links me to an innate sense of country living. Not only existing in small towns where the community is smaller and more intimate, but also coming from an environment that was more harsh and unforgiving than bountiful. Not to mention that I grew up with relatives who had living memories of the Depression, wartime and rations. As a result, I am always conscious of waste, and thinking of ways to avoid it.
Today my kitchen project was simple: making sweet potato chips for “the troops”, our two dogs. Both Simon and Ella enjoy treats just as we do, but junk food is no better for them than it is for us. A crunchy sweet potato chip is a nice way for them to have something without any processing except dehydration. (Seven hours at 130F works perfectly. ) There is no mess ; Simon sometimes leaves a few crumbs, but Ella is a master at clean-up, being a Labrador. The only catch is that the ends of the potatoes are too small to use for chips, due to the tapered shape. We do have a compost, but why not use the ends in another way?
I had an epiphany one day while making the chips and thinking of what to put in our salad for dinner. How about roasting pieces of sweet potato and adding them to the salad? It worked like a charm. I put the pieces on a baking sheet with some olive oil and herbs & spices (whatever strikes my fancy that day).About 20 minutes in a moderate oven and presto! We can just as easily leave them in the fridge for another meal if need be. At least all that food isn’t wasted.
I suppose you could say this is another way to look at the concept of “nose to tail” cooking, in the vegetable world. I’m proud that I have kept something out of the compost – yay me! Somehow the lack of guilt I feel makes the salad taste better.