Thursday, December 08, 2005

Market Diaries

To get to the wholesale market I have to go through a big supermarket; the gate is at the end of the parking lot. As I cycle there, my panniers empty, I see people going into the supermarket; on the way back I see them coming out with plastic bags full with their shopping; it's usually around lunch time, quite a few people come from nearby offices.

Sometimes, on a good day - when my panniers are full with fruit and veg, and a box on top of that, of exotic fruits and organic produce - I feel like saying to people: look! You can get all this for free! There's no reason to go into the supermarket. No need to pay for anything. It's just five minutes walk from here, and (usually) no one will stop you! It's all getting thrown away!
But I don't say anything. Partly because in London, when strangers approach you on the street, they're almost always crazy/want money(that's my experience at least).

But also I know there's no point. People are shocked by the idea of taking food from the rubbish. Ostensibly, it's about hygiene and food safety. But the food is perfectly fine - really, it could be on the supermarket shelves (so why is it thrown away? Too much ordered, too close to use-by date...). It's as hygienic as the stuff you buy.

The real reason is shame - eating wasted food is something poor and desperate people do. Most people will agree that throwing good food away is criminal, but as for taking it themselves...

When I first started skipping I was over-self-conscious. Opening a bin-liner in a main street for the first time, in broad daylight, felt like transgressing some basic rule; 'thou shall not touch the rubbish for it is filthy'. And I was sure everybody were looking at me. At times I wondered: what if somebody from college sees me? Or a friend of my parents, visiting London? But I found that no-one cared, no-one was looking. And when they did, they would avert their eyes; it's unpleasant to see someone looking through the rubbish. Very quickly I lost my sense of shame.

The level of waste in London is astronomical - you could feed another huge city with it; the ones who should feel shame are the people who throw out this food, not the people who take it. But that's a bit hard to stomach I guess.

* * *

Yesterday in the Market, in season:
Tomato day (from Holland, Morocco, Canary Islands) - and tons of Iceberg lettuce (Spain)
As Blue once said on Iceberg: it has the nutritional value of cardboard, and the only good thing about it is that it can last for weeks. (Good for supermarkets, that is).
asparagus (Peru)
Pok Choi
Wild Mushrooms (fresh shitaki, great in an omelet)
Butternut Squash

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