A few years ago, I bought food from a supermarket in Budapest and noticed how much less ‘perfect’ the fruit and vegetables were than those which we were used to seeing on shop shelves at home. No less tasty, just less visually attractive. This stood in stark contrast to what I was used to seeing on shop shelves in the UK, and it got me thinking. When it comes to the way we buy food, has the desire for a ‘perfect’ product gone too far?

Over the years, retailers have become more and more concerned with providing a perfect product. This is something which has become a public concern – as has the inevitable waste it involves, as imperfect products go unused. Supermarkets are beginning to catch on, with the introduction of wonky veg boxes and the like, but there is still a way to go.

There’s also work to be done in our own kitchens. We as a society have become used to being very wasteful when it comes to food – with so much choice available, it’s easy to buy too much, only to see it go out of date and in the bin. It’s always fantastic to see this issue highlighted as an area of concern – and that’s exactly what the focus was at Wasted!

Hosted by Flock PR and Events at the stunning Dome House in Windermere, Wasted! was a dinner with a difference. Bringing together chefs and food suppliers from across Cumbria, the event aimed to produce an amazing, high quality culinary experience using only ingredients that would otherwise have gone to waste. The team of chefs, led by the wonderful Martin Frickel of the Forest Side in Grasmere, took the idea of ‘no waste’ as far as they possibly could, refusing even basic store cupboard items unless they could be justified, so that all possible profits from the evening went to four local food-related charities which work to combat food waste and food poverty.

The resulting 21-course tasting menu was both mind-expanding and excellent, featuring dishes that war-time cooks might recognise, such as dripping; as well as inspired ways of using food such as whey fudge, sourdough starter ‘twigs and spent coffee (from an espresso machine) jammie dodgers. Food for thought indeed!

Whey fudge
The concept of the event could be seen in every area: dishes were served up on cracked (or downright broken) crockery and slates, while coffee sack placemats and wooden cutlery holders adorned the tables. When it came to producing glassware for the event, I took inspiration from the local area and designed wine glasses and tumblers which referenced the Langdales; tumblers which were blown using a log mould found locally and carved out; and a mixture of champagne glasses. Some of the glasses were offered for auction at the event in a bid to raise more money for the well-deserving charities supported by the evening.
lakeland wine glasses

I was incredibly lucky to attend this dinner, which has the potential to create new ways of showing how the significant issue of food waste can be combated, and how complacent and accepting we have become. The fantastic charities supported by this event were: Growing Well, Windermere & District Food Bank, Cumbria Community Foundation.

Photograph credits:  Victoria Sedgewick.