Ever wished a restaurateur could help you figure out what to make in your kitchen?
Food Waste Feast, a website launched this spring by two of the siblings behind Mei Mei—a Chinese-American food truck that’s regularly set up shop in Cambridge—aims to help people get creative in the kitchen and, in the process, reduce food waste.
As restaurant owners, Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li learned how easy it is to waste food—and how much doing so can hurt a business’s bottom line.
The issue easily translates to the home cook. A recipe that calls for just the caps of mushrooms or a tablespoon of cilantro leaves people with a hodgepodge of ingredients that often gets trashed. In addition to being a financial waste, throwing out food takes a toll on the environment as well, both by creating trash and by rendering worthless all the resources that went into producing the food.
At Mei Mei, the siblings have worked to use ingredients creatively in their dishes so that stems and scraps make it to the plate. Margaret and Irene started Food Waste Feast in May to bring that concept into people’s homes.
The website’s recipes are intentionally vague so that people can use them as a jumping off point to cook with whatever ingredients they have on hand. A “Bruised or Surplus Fruit Crisp” encourages people to work with any type of fruit, choose their own selection of spices, and “improvise” with the topping.
“People shouldn’t be scared of experimentation,” Margaret says.
Recipes are organized by ingredient categories—lighter leaves, root vegetables, dairy, etc.—to help underline what substitutions can be made.
Some recipes are a bit more concrete, but suggest variations and substitutions. Margaret explains that Food Waste Feast is designed to help people get more comfortable with being creative in the kitchen, rather than just following strict recipes that leave them with random ingredients leftover.
“We have a cookbook coming out in February [from Mei Mei], and so having written a cookbook that has very specific measurements and instructions, it’s been an interesting process going to writing recipes that are kind of deliberately vague,” Margaret says. “And the idea behind that is really to help people cook a little bit more creatively on their own.”
The site is full of tips in addition to full-blown recipes. For example: “Stale bread? Cool. You’re already on the way to making breadcrumbs or bread pudding. Moldy bread? Not cool. Say goodbye.”
Irene and Margaret suggest creating an “Eat Me First” box of foods that are perishable or that are close to going rotten. “Then when you start cooking, you know where to reach first,” they write on the site.
People might even learn that they can eat parts of their produce that they’d never considered eating before: “You can totally eat cauliflower leaves and the thick core, just cut it into thin pieces,” the sisters write. Fennel fronds and beet greens are also fair game.
“My goal is to help out people—the person I have in my mind is someone who loves and appreciates food and has a good sense of cooking, and my goal is to [help them] take that next step of looking at things that they have in their fridge and being able to turn that into something, rather than going out to buy things to follow another recipe,” Margaret says.
To check out Food Waste Feast, visit www.foodwastefeast.com.