For most of my childhood, I hated Biafran children. I was always a picky eater and a skinny kid; all our family dinners were partaken at exactly 8 pm, with the tv set on in the background and my father silencing us if an item of interest (to him) appeared on the news. While I toyed with bits of meats and vegetables, my mother would invariably prod me with “Think of those African children. They have nothing to eat”. It should have shamed me into finishing my dinner but all it did was build resentment towards those protruding bellies and vacant stares. “If they are so hungry, why don’t they come get my meatballs” I would mutter to myself.
My parents were children during the war, when food was scarce and homemakers became inventive with their supplies and could not conceive of waste. It took me, a child of the economic boom, for the circle to come around again and start appreciating the power of leftovers.
With next to no income coming in right now, and my credit card banned from all web purchasing and frivolous stores (and no restaurant to feed me free lunch every day), I am even more mindful than before of what gets thrown away. I might have reached every chef’s dream: zero food waste.
The lentils left over from some lentil meatballs? They become lentil salad with whatever veggies are fresh or can be roasted.
The vegetable puree/stew or compote made as a side dish? It can be converted into a pasta sauce the next day.
That lovely mushroom risotto? Pan fried arancini (which are simply delicious).
Fruits or vegetables on the verge of spoiling get frozen. The more the merrier for breakfast smoothies.
All that parsley that invariably yellows at the bottom of the fridge? Chop it up and freeze it. Same for carrots, onions and celery, mixed together, for a ready-made mirepoix when needed (I can’t believe that in this country, where everything is made convenient, they don’t sell frozen chopped parsley or mirepoix, commonly found in Europe. Here is an entrepreneurial idea.)
Whatever leftover pasta? Gets baked the day after with the addition of some cheese or ricotta.
I could go on but you get the idea. Send me a leftover and I will have a couple of thoughts on how to repurpose it.
I have now stretched my repurposing to street finds. On a dog walk in my neighbourhood, I spotted two rattan chairs somebody had left on the side of the road for the garbage collector – or for scavengers like me. Upon further inspection, they seemed in excellent condition, other than for some dirt and the varnish burnt off by the sun. I need new patio chairs. I have hated the current ones from day one, but they were a gift. Now, they are a sorry-looking gift. Looking at the discarded chairs, I thought I could work with them, even I, a prime example of the DIY gene gone wrong. When I announce to my household I am planning to paint, sand or scrape, the first reaction is typically disbelief, followed by a run for cover.
Undeterred, the dogs and I dragged one chair home and then I went back for the other.
Once the weather cleared up, I set up shop in my yard: hosed them off, brushed them clean and spray painted them a funky shade of jade. Price tag: $7.31. You be the judge.
I am the repurposing queen – especially when it comes to food. Very little goes to waste and I buy supplies for a couple of meals at a time to make sure that doesn’t happen. Planning what we are going to eat three or four days in a row helps – as does making enough for a few dinners (eg pasta sauce or chicken casserole) and freezing it. Last night I used left over Bolognese sauce to make a savoury pie, with frozen puff pastry as the topper.
Various bits of my furniture are out in the world working for someone else. Rather than leave them in the attic – they are doing what they should. And if my holiday home ever comes into being – I will recall them for use there.
Repurposing is a moral issue for me – mostly because I hate waste – but also because these economic times demand we draw a clear distinction between what we want and what we need. And any surplus we have should be shared. I live in a country where most people have nothing, where they create homes from the most unlikely items, cobbled together by grit and imagination. So – ostentation in any form is just poor taste.
But I don’t like wearing other people’s old clothes. I should elaborate on that – I am not a thrift store shopper. The word Vintage is used to describe any item of clothing that’s been pre-owned these days – when in my head it references beautiful garments from years gone by. And most of those ladies were smaller than I am – they had narrow shoulders and no pigeon chest: so the occasional, fragile Courreges gown would never zip for me. And as I hate the thought of wearing fur – old coats and stoles are not considered. Plus there is that smell. Musty, mothbally – nasty.
But I do clear out my cupboard at the end of every season and give away anything that is in good condition and wearable. Being fussy about who owned your clothes before you is not an option for many of the women around me. And hanging onto things because I might just wear them in the future is unconscionable to me. Plus – it makes my day to see Belinda or Bussie coming through the door looking glamorous. I love to see how an item that was once mine, is restyled and worn with a sweet panache.
Like camparigirl – my income is tiny compared to what it used to be. But I am ok with it. My life is far richer.
For fun ideas on repurposing check out Pepperbox couture
Re-purposed Vespa image found here