“Waste not. Want not.”

I heard those words at the dinner table at least twice a week from my mother when I was a young kid. But I don’t think I understood them. I know they never had much affect on me. Nor did the stories of rationing during the war or the starving African children. It was only when I was told that I couldn’t go out and play until I’d eaten everything on my plate that I first understood the irresponsibility of waste.

My real understanding of the problem though didn’t come until recently.

Depending upon the source, global food waste is estimated to be somewhere between one third and one half of all the food that is ever produced. In developed countries, much of that loss is not at the production stage but during the consumption stage. I was astonished when I first heard the numbers; the estimate is about 100 kilograms per year per person or over half a pound a day.

My first thoughts were about that waste all being in the home (perhaps because kids no longer care if they go out to play) but, as more and more people eat their meals outside their homes, it’s happening elsewhere. It’s happening in restaurants. And someone in San Miguel de Allende is doing something about it.

Sibel Pinto is a chef who specializes in a cuisine that’s foreign even to a foodie. The cuisine is called Turkish/Sephardic. I’ve been delighted by Turkish cuisine but I didn’t know much about Sephardic except that, maybe, they were the Jews that originated in Spain and had some major problems in the country sometime around when Columbus headed west. But Sibel is the author of the book, “The Evolution of the Sephardic Cuisine in Turkey: Five Centuries of Survival” so obviously I still have a lot to learn. Sibel also knows a lot more about food waste than I do.

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Sibel Pinto told me, “Food waste is a highly visible and urgent challenge that is gaining importance worldwide. While consumer and residential waste represent the largest sources of food waste, restaurants also account for 37% of waste. Thus cooks have the opportunity to have a significant impact on reducing food waste at the source by becoming more engaged, more creative and more focused in cooking. We would like to raise awareness and to teach, to learn and to share the best practices in food waste prevention.”

“I was deeply concerned to see how much food was wasted in the kitchens I worked in. All those fresh vegetables, fruits, bread and other baked goods that were put into the trash when it was possible to turn them into delicious and healthy food.”

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Chef Pinto continued, “We want to successfully utilize the food waste like fruit and vegetable trimmings, peels, left-overs, and recycle food scraps as an exciting food adventure and a most enjoyable dining experience. We want to help others to learn to use every opportunity to prevent food waste, to show ways to improve our practices and attitudes about waste, to strengthen sustainability of the food system and to be a catalyst for changing the social acceptability of wasted food.”

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To address the problem, Sibel Pinto and her husband Henri have formed Action Kashkarikas. That word kashkarikas, which, probably to you, like me, was a total mystery, until I learned, and now you, that it is the signature dish of traditional Turkish-Sephardi cuisine prepared by using the peels from zucchini. The aim of Action Kashkarikas is to teach restaurants and you and I how to cook delicious, diverse, healthy and inspiring food by using fruit and vegetable trimmings, peels, left-overs and low cost ingredients.

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To introduce the program, on January 12, Sibel Pinto will team with José Bossuet, chef/owner of San Miguel’s Cafe Contento for a very special fundraising dinner.

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Sibel Pinto told me, “We are committed to better health for human kind, to create educational opportunities and to support rural development. We are involved in the battle against poverty and hunger. We want to promote ecological development and humanitarian aid. We are partnering and fundraising for the non-profit organization Action Against Hunger, the leader in fighting child hunger and malnutrition in the world.”

I don’t know how much organic waste is produced in San Miguel de Allende but I did find out that Mexico City produces 5,100 tons of organic waste every day.

I also know that according to Mexico’s National Crusade Against Hunger, over 58 million Mexicans live below the poverty line and the government has defined 11.7 million as living in extreme poverty and deprivation. One night of sensible eating isn’t going to do a lot to solve that problem but, hopefully, it will make us all be much more aware of it. I hope I see you there.

The Action Kashkarikas Fundraising Dinner will be held at 8:00 pm on Thursday, January 12, at Cafe Contento, in Plaza Golondrina, Hernández Macías 72, in San Miguel de Allende. Reservations are essential and can be made by emailing Martha Alfaro at martha@cafecontento.com or telephoning her at 415 154 8020.

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