How we become more creative in the kitchen and thus avoid waste
A spontaneous date with friends, ordering food after a long day - the bread you bought is left behind, hard, dry, and after days of waiting and a guilty conscience, it ends up in the trash.
This scenario is familiar to so many. Around 78 kilograms of food per capita end up in the trash in Germany every year (StBA). A large part of this is avoidable. This is not only expensive, but also places a heavy burden on the environment. Nevertheless, we often find it difficult to change habits and lack ideas for preparation.
Sophia Hoffmann wants to do something about that. She is a cook, author, activist and soon to be restaurant owner. For more than 10 years she has devoted herself with passion and creativity to her heart's topics of plant-based nutrition, sustainability and environmental protection and feminism.
In her books „Zero Waste Küche“ und „Die kleine Hoffmann: einfach intuitiv kochen lernen“ she shares her knowledge on the value-oriented use of food and waste reduction in cooking.
In this interview, Sophia reveals some of her tips and makes us want to try out innovative recipes in the kitchen!
In your book "Zero Waste Kitchen," you focus on 40 products that end up in the trash most often in German households. Which product is thrown away the most and which recipe would you like to use to prevent this?
Fruit/vegetables, animal products and baked goods are all thrown away. In Germany, one in five baked goods ends up in the trash. Yet there are great recipes for recycling in all cultures that bake bread. That's why bread recycling is one of my favorite topics and my favorite recipe is the so-called bread patties, patties made from stale bread that turns into the most delicious vegan patties with the help of delicious flavor ingredients like onions, dried tomatoes, mustard and capers. The recipe can also be found on my website.
What are the three most common reasons for discarded food? Is there a pattern or a food group that is affected more often than average?
It starts with shopping: despite rising food prices, we usually buy far too much, whether fresh or dry products, and we often lose track of what we actually still have at home. Another issue is the best-before date: many people don't know that this is a quality assurance date set by the food industry itself, which can be chosen completely arbitrarily (unlike the consumption date for meat/fish and other perishable animal products). Almost all foods can be eaten after the expiration date without any problems, here you should simply trust your senses: smell, look, taste. The third reason is lost appreciation and loss of knowledge: What do I do with bread that has become hard, what with limp lettuce or a wrinkled tomato? I fill these two gaps with my work on social media and with my books, and soon as a restaurateur in my Berlin restaurant HAPPA (opening planned for October 2022).
The correct storage of food is crucial. Which foods can be stored well and which products should rather be purchased shortly before use?
Many dry or naturally preserved products such as legumes, rice, pasta, vinegar, mustard, ketchup last for years and can be stored without any problems, with the exception of whole grain flour or products milled in the whole grain, because they contain oil and can become rancid. The same applies to oil, of course, so I always recommend smaller bottles for special oils that are not used for cooking but only for salads, for example. With fresh products I recommend directly after the purchase a mental priority list in the head (or on paper) to put on, then one internalizes which must be processed first: Stone fruit in the summer I would always buy day-fresh, because it does not keep long, salads, leaf spinach must be processed fast. But root vegetables such as beet, celery, heads of lettuce, cabbage heads in the vegetable compartment sometimes hold for weeks. My tip for red cabbage, white cabbage, savoy cabbage and the like: pick off only the leaves, as mold tends to form on cut surfaces.
Buy once for the whole week or several times for a few days? How is less waste produced?
You have to find that out for yourself, you can't make a blanket statement. I am a member of a vegetable cooperative (the organic-vegan cooperative Plantation), we get a box once a week, which supplies the majority of our vegetables, but this is somewhat advanced, if the holistic recycling overwhelms you, you should rather make several small planned purchases.
Cooked way too much - What's your tip for spicing up food from the last few days?
For me, the mental carousel starts immediately - change of consistency: you can often do a lot with it. A tired salad can be pureed into a creamy soup, a leftover dip can be extended into a salad dressing, pasta into a pasta salad, even leftover chips can be chopped into a chickpea flour omelet or a frittata. Rice, potatoes or millet can be turned into fritters, or potatoes can be used to thicken pureed soup. The possibilities are endless.
You say that food appreciation can be learned. Are the recipes in your book also suitable for cooking with children?
Absolutely. I had the great fortune to learn all of this naturally at home from a very young age, only when I became professionally involved in it did I realize what an incredible privilege it was and that many people lack this knowledge, which is why I write books about it today. Because I am convinced that more appreciation for food also increases appreciation in other areas of life.
It is never too early or too late to start. Children are very enthusiastic about food and cooking - if you let them participate. Without this early imprinting, I would not be a cook today.
Food planning, holistic utilization, preservation - isn't that all very time-consuming?
It all sounds terribly time-consuming, but these are all things that you can gradually internalize. You can start with small steps and it's not about "doing everything right", but simply about changing your view of food. Once you put on the "appreciation glasses", you simply see possibilities instead of shortcomings.
Is it easier to implement zero waste cooking if you cook purely plant-based, like you do?
I wouldn't say that. Plant-based cooking is simply more climate-friendly and the most ethical diet for me, but even with animal products there are many means of holistic processing and preservation and here, too, far too much is thrown away. For example, I'm often asked how you can tell an egg is no longer good, then I answer, "Crack it open and you'll smell it." It's that simple. In my book "Zero Waste Kitchen" I also cover animal products and give tips and info about them because I think it's important not to waste them.
Your latest book „Die kleine Hoffmann“ is all about intuitive cooking. How does that relate to the Zero Waste philosophy?
The more intuitive I learn to cook, the better I can utilize food in a more holistic way. The book is full of my accumulated cooking knowledge, a reference book with chapters on stockpiling, preservation, seasoning, preparation, baking, kitchen tools and, of course, lots of basic recipes and principles. You don't have to memorize it, you can look it up, there are even pages for your own notes. My goal is empowerment, because to cook freely and intuitively is for me the most beautiful gift and not a compulsory exercise.