Are you going to eat that?

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I don’t know why my brain works as it does; why certain ideas intrigue me. But, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know how things work. Not everything, but certain things.

Breaking down my drumset is an example. Removing from the wooden drum shells all the chrome lugs, lug springs, tensioning rods, hoops, and drum heads. Spit shining all those parts. Experimenting with ideas on how to make the drums sound better. Trial and error. If at first you don’t succeed…

The recycling compactor at the local dump fascinates me. I remember when we had to sort recyclables before carrying them to the dump: glass, metal, paper, cardboard, plastics. Now all the recyclables are emptied into this one machine. One of our landfill attendants told me it’s all sorted out at giant waste facilities through a system of air and magnets.

Scott K. Fish

Scott K. Fish

For awhile I’ve wondered how restaurants might avoid so much wasted food. I’m not going negative on restaurants here. They have food systems in place. Someone has the job of ordering food to accommodate the menu selection. Someone has to decide in advance what customers are likely to order: eggs, steaks, seafood, desserts, drinks — everything.

Ordering too much, or too little, food is costly.

Customer – “I’ll have the Caesar salad with steak tips.”

Waitress – “I’m sorry. We’re out of romaine and steak tips.”

Conversely, how awful and expensive it must be for restaurant owners to toss out unsold food.

Then there’s food customers order and don’t eat. That’s wasting perfectly good food. How can you stop that from happening? If you didn’t intend to eat your side salad — why order it?

Yes, I follow my own advice. When I’m not going to eat the bun with my hamburger — I ask the waitress to hold the bun. I also say no to complimentary appetizers — like popcorn.

Looking for other solutions, I posed this proposition on my Facebook page: “Looking for valid ways for restaurants to avoid serving food that ends up uneaten and scraped into garbage cans.”

To get the conversation started I suggested offering meals in large and small sizes, and providing take home boxes for leftovers.

Scott P. Heidrich said, “Some restaurants will do a scraps bucket of certain types of food that can be sent to a local farm as pig food.”

I had farmer friends in Monroe who had such an arrangement with a nearby general store.

“Most of the Portland peninsula does garbage to gardens now, where they send their scraps to be composted for farms to buy,” said my friend Chiara.

On the surface, garbage to gardens sounds like a good idea. My father always had a compost heap. Me too. I’m curious to know how the Portland peninsula system works. Is it by individual garbage to gardens arrangement? Or is there a larger system in play?

Bonnie Gould said, “Within reason, allow for substitutes. I know substitution is a pain for the restaurant, but for those…wedded to a “no substitution” policy, without a doubt it engenders waste.”

One of my favorite Italian restaurants serves large portions of delicious food. For an extra three dollars, the restaurant allows a couple to share one meal. It’s a welcome option when two large portions is too much.

The solution to wasted restaurant food seems to be twofold: creative serving and menu options on the part of restaurants and other eateries, plus positive ways to use food scraps.

And also, asking ourselves when ordering, “am I going to eat that?” Cutting back on wasted food can be as simple as my friend, Danny’s, habit when ordering a burger: “I ask [the waitress] to leave off the lettuce, tomato and pickle.”

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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