Indian households have been rooted in practices of sustainability for centuries. While the world is starting to catch up on green-living our grandparents had always adopted intuitive consumption, although, it is fair to say that in recent years we have frayed away from our eco friendly origins, especially in urban cities. From our wardrobes to kitchens, we are now surrounded by with materials that cause immense harm to the environment and are also ignorant of our contribution to landfills.
Contrary to this reality, Indian kitchens have historically been places where the entire cooking process is rooted in sustainability; using locally grown, seasonal produce and being resourceful by producing minimum waste. Currently, the culinary industry is seeing a rise in a similar practice called ‘zero-waste cooking’, which is essentially the practice of using every part of an ingredient to reduce wastage.
The concept is multi-layered and promotes cooking with a conscience especially amongst younger generations that are far removed from such practices. According to a recent study by Curry’s, Millennials and Gen Z waste more food than any other generation. Additionally, a more alarming finding by the Times of India showcased how our country’s households produce over 50 kg of food waste per capita.
This is where the trailblazing practice of zero-waste cooking can actually come to our rescue. There are some simple principles to be followed that result in major reduction of kitchen scraps and also provide ways to reuse them. According to experts, the first place to start is by incorporating scraps and peels in our cooking process as they help in adding colour to our culinary canvas.
Anahita Dhondy, who has authored 'Parsi Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family' and is a chef-partner at the famous Indian restaurant SodaBottleOpenerWala was a previous member of ‘The Chef’s Manifesto’, a worldwide movement where 16 chefs from 13 countries launched their action plan at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, whose aim is to create better food system for all. Anahita believes that people can start using the whole vegetable instead of just a part of one as well as more Indian ingredients and incorporates knowledge passed down by her grandmother to show people how to do so.
She explains how Parsi households have a dish called ‘Par Edu’, where eggs are cracked into any dish that is a day-old, and baked. With this principle fewer dishes are discarded and almost all leftovers are eaten by the family members. Chef Anahita has embraced these practices in her own culinary journey. In her professional kitchen, far less food waste now ends up going into the bin.
In addition to such practices, the young creative believes that we can considerably reduce waste by not using plastic. This means that one should try to both avoid the use of plastic packaging as well as not purchase food that comes wrapped or contained in plastic. Plastic is not only harmful for the environment but is alsonot the best storage option for food as well. One can lookout for more eco-friendly packaging that is now readily available in the market. Indian brands such as Pappco Greenware, Evicror, Bumboo and Eco Ware are helping their consumers reduce the carbon footprint left by food production and packaging.
Chef partner at Toast & Tonic, Manu Chandra, has also shared his eco-friendly cooking practices in an interview with Tweak India, hoping to minimise the creation of food waste. With simple techniques such as smoking the whole bird, while preparing chicken and using the meat for the dishes, bones for broth, and the skin to add a bit of crunch to their fried rice. As for vegetables, the stems, leaves, trimmings and other scraps are often repurposed and used in soups and sauces.
Deemed as a ‘Waste Warrior’, chef Radhika Khandelwal takes pride in her sustainable kitchen at GKII’s Fig & Maple and she is also passionate about creating awareness about this form of cooking. Her Instagram account is devoted to curated content that informs people about quick ideas to use almost everything stored in your fridge. The chef witnessed, in her own culinary journey, how perfectly-edible parts went to the bin simply because there was a lack of awareness and hence decided to make sustainable cooking knowledge more accessible to young people through social media.
Similar to Chef Radhika, there are many other young Indian chefs present on social media channels that are actively pursuing zero-waste cooking while sharing their findings with the larger public. Young creative Vanshika Bhatia ,who was featured in the prestigious listing of 40 Under 40 Chefs at CN Traveler, has an instagram presence dedicated to sharing her culinary secrets with a younger audience. One can learn to cook some of the most loved Indian dishes such as Rind Curry with her zero waste recipes.
As we are working towards a sustainable future by creating changes in a multitude of spaces across industries it is important to reevaluate the cooking practices within our own kitchens. Even the smallest amount of waste production adds to the ever-growing heaps while they could have been resourcefully reused in other places. By incorporating tips from these young chefs we can all hope to create change in our own small ways; resulting in monumental shifts in levels of food wastage.