Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Over the past weekend, I was back home in Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. My mom has been following my blog, and she knew I was trying to live plastic free. She also told my grandma, who was preparing Thanksgiving dinner, about my pledge.
A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....
Great, this is going to go well, I thought.

I have a loving and supporting family, but when it comes to my environmentalist vein, I tend to drive the family a bit nuts. Heck, they’re still just adjusting to me being a pescatarian. Trying to make it five days without purchasing plastic or consuming food packaged in plastic? I figured I didn’t stand a chance.

I guess it’s a measure of how supportive my family is that they tried at all to get food that was plastic free. Even with our efforts to reduce, we weren’t able to entirely eliminate the plastic. Allow me to break it down:

The Jello Incident: The first night my girlfriend and I stayed with her parents in Portland. As per normal, the moment we stepped into the house, we were inundated with offers of food. Normally, I just politely refuse the food, preferring to leave with my waistline intact. However, I discovered almost immediately that my girlfriend’s mother had made an irrational amount of Jello. And by irrational, I mean ten boxes. Of Jello. I knew that Jello powder was contained in plastic bags within the boxes. Plus, all the Jello jigglers were stored in little plastic cups (thankfully, reusable) covered in Saran wrap (unfortunately, not reusable). I figured it would be impolite to refuse all the Jello, so I settled on having one of the cups.

Success at Breakfast: Most mornings over the holidays, I escaped with a banana, eggs, and pastries or rolls that came in cardboard packaging. Breakfast proved the easiest meal. I was forced to refuse to pick up my mother’s cinnamon dulce latte at Starbucks at one point, because she didn’t have a reusable cup. Adding that one to the Christmas list!

The Big Meal (a.k.a how I totally suck at Thanksgiving): I’ve never really been a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Through childhood, I was content with some turkey, a few rolls, and some fruit salad. It took twenty years of my life to decide to opt-in to stuffing. I still don’t eat mashed potatoes, gravy, or cranberries—and now turkey has been replaced by salmon. In other words, I suck at Thanksgiving. So let’s look at where I succeeded and where I failed with my plastic pledge.

Salmon: Bought at a fresh fish market. Unfortunately, it was wrapped in a plastic bag, which I’m afraid was destined for the trash can because of its fishiness. Fail.

Stuffing: Comes in a box, but inside the box is a plastic bag. Fail.

Fruit Salad: Although some of the fruit (apples, oranges, bananas) was plastic free, the berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) were definitely packaged in plastic. Fail.

Jeesh…I’m not doing very good, am I?

Bread Rolls: Finally, success! These came wrapped in foil from the catering that also delivered our pies. Win.

Beer and Wine: The wine cork was real cork, as opposed to plastic (the virtues of plastic over the endangered cork tree are another issue entirely). However, the beer bottle lids have a little plastic seal, which makes them not entirely plastic free. Fail-ish.

Olives: A guilty Thanksgiving pleasure of mine—and one that comes in a BPA lined can. Fail. At least I’m in good company, since Beth Terry—my plastic free heroine—recently posted a confession regarding these subtle and sinister plastic-lined metallic villains.

Pie and Ice Cream: This came from a catering service, which delivered the pie in a plastic-free box. Was the pie made from ingredients that came in plastic? Probably. I guess I can’t have your cake pie and eat it too. The ice cream container didn’t have any plastic windows, so that was a plus. I’m a little suspicious of ice cream containers though. The cardboard is suspiciously durable. Plastic perhaps?

Lunches etc.: I have to give kudos to my mom on this one, and not just ’cause she’s my mother. She dug up a recipe for these focaccia-bread-like creations that included freshly minced vegetables, cream cheese, and salad dressing. A bizarre combination, to be sure, but also one that was utterly delicious and plastic free—or so she assured me. She also made chocolate chip cookies that, with the exception of the chocolate chips, came from plastic-free baking goods. It got me to thinking that chocolate chip cookies are actually great plastic-free goodies, if you buy the chocolate chips in bulk. That’s probably a post for another time, though.

Conclusion?

Traveling while living plastic free is hard. Add to that trying not to offend your family, or your significant other’s family, and it becomes an even greater challenge. I learned a lot from the weekend. The best part was having a conversation with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and even my grandparents about my pledge off plastic. It made them think about their habits, and it changed the interaction from me preaching to them about environmental degradation to us having a constructive conversation.

When was the last time you talked to your family about reducing waste?

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On Sunday, I took my first trip to the grocery store since pledging off plastic products, and it was rough. This pledge is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

Tough as it was to find food that lacked plastic packaging, it could have been worse. I eat very little processed food to begin with. More than one person has referred to my lunches as “rabbit food.” A typical day’s meals look like this:

Breakfast:

  • Breakfast Smoothie (banana, coconut milk, kefir probiotic, frozen berries, and protein powder)
  • Vitamins
  • Way too much coffee.

Snacks/Lunch:

  • Assorted Vegetables (typically a carrot, a cucumber, a green bell pepper, and boccoli)
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Grapes or Pear
  • Homemade trail mix (dried blueberries, chocolate covered raisins, pumpkin seeds, oats, almonds, pecans, dried cranberries).

Dinner: 

  • Pasta with garlic, olive oil, and salt.
  • Glass of red wine.
  • Frozen berries.

And there you have it. I follow this ascetic food regiment probably eighty percent of the time. With so much produce in my diet, I didn’t think the plastic pledge would prove that challenging with regards to my eating habits.

Yeah, that was stupid of me.

This first foray to the grocery store was to Fred Meyer, a chain in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. I scoured the store for a solution for my breakfast smoothies. I figured if I supplemented milk (in cardboard containers) for my coconut milk (which had plastic lids), I might be able to work something out. I also looked at various sorbets, but all had plastic lids or else plastic wrapping connecting the lids and containers. Eventually, I gave up my hopes for maintaining my smoothie habit, when I realized that the grocery store lacked yogurt and berries in non-plastic containers. So what about breakfast?

Cereal? Nope, most of it comes in plastic bags inside the cardboard boxes.

Toast? Even the fresh baguettes had little plastic windows in the paper so you could “see the bread.” WTF? Do we really need all these little plastic windows so we can see our food? Don’t get me started on pasta boxes.

Waffles and pancakes? Sure, the mix comes in paper bags, but try finding syrup that doesn’t have a plastic lid. I’m sure there are options out there, but not at this waffle stand.

Eggs! At last, a solution. I’m a pescatarian, so I still eat eggs and fish.

So, I have ninety days of egg breakfasts to look forward to. Yay?

What I took away from my endeavors to craft a breakfast was this: It’s not impossible to eat without buying plastic products, but unless you are willing to (A) severely limit the variation in your meals or (B) visit lots of independent food stores (such as bakeries or farmers markets), you’re going to have a rough time of it.

Still, spirits are high, and food is the least of my worries. All I can say is good thing I like omelettes.