While the onus should not be on me the individual to take responsibility for a culture of excess, I finally figured out where to start with plastic-free shopping
Where does it end, and where do I start? This is the challenge presented to me each time I set foot across a supermarket threshold – or any shop selling mass volumes of household goods for that matter. But before stepping in there again, take a step instead. Take a look at the scale of the problem. You can see it everywhere. From the sweetly wrapped romaine to the rippling rows of sparkling water. Everything you came here for was touched by plastic on its journey to your meet our needy needs.
Choosing to give these capitalist meccas our money – and for which items – is a gesture of approval for these methods of operation. Yes, there is little in the way of real choice among what they have to offer us: muesli or different muesli; bread or slightly nicer bread. They all come in a different hue of the same shimmering packaging. Packaging that no amount of vegan-informed,environmentally conscious recycling will bring back to life in a safe and salubrious form.
This is why I chose to take stock of what was being placed in my (plastic) basket – and why I haven’t eaten broccoli for two months. Theplastic used to wrap around these perfectly durable, from-the-soil-of-the-earth fresh sources of nutrition seemed to me to be the most unnecessary, and so itwas there that I chose to start.
When walking round the aisles of piles of produce, from nowon I have decided to bypass the cellophane surrounded spinach, the slinkily sheathed cucumber and the compounded grapes and opt instead for something I have never considered before – something that no matter the illogical the justification – could not, should and will not be placed in a handy bag to go: something with evidence of dirt and green lumps covering it, and a cute protruding orifice showing it once hung delicately from a tree: a Hokkaido pumpkin.
The reason I had never bought one before is partly on account of never having heard of it and secondly on having seen it and decidingit looked like hard work. I did have to think twice, however, before fully committing to the Hokkaido pumpkin. Hokkaido, I thought. That’s an awful lot of air milesfor a pumpkin the size of my head (medium to quite large).
The dithering ended when I reminded myself the challenge was to avoid a plastic covering and clearly this pumpkin was much more local in Germany than I was. I continued on my reaching an almost familiar bulbous blob. The name I knew because I’d seen it on the side of a soup can – contains celeriac. And also because it sounds a lot like celery and had celerygrowing from its head. The connecting convinced me and I plucked the beggar from the dirt and slammed its face into the plastic (basket).
After paying for the plastic-free produce along side my tooth paste (metallic plastic) my oat milk (Tetrapak with some plastic) and muesli (I know I mention it a lot but there is so much muesli in Germany – allcovered in plastic) and my Alpro yoghurt (cardboard-covered plastic) and went home to unpack my new vegetable friends and see what people do with such things.
I found it is easy to cook familiar meals with unfamiliar ingredients – you just use celeriac or pumpkin instead of spinach and broccoli. By the third night of using them though, the vigour had driven me to discover slow roast celeriac. And who under all the dirt and straggly under carry lay something sweet and peculiar. By covering with a drizzle of sunflower oil and herbs and garlic then roasting, it turned out almost laterally golden. I even used the top of the celeriac to make a slightly gritty pesto. This on top ofsome salad leaves, a little avocado, roasted sweet potato, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and you have will I will not call a Late Summer Salad.
Similarly stimulating and inspired was the Early Autumn Salad – much the same but with pumpkin and hummus instead of celeriac and avocado. Both dishes I dreamt up on the spot and was astounded by my own ingenuity. While I do make fairly simple dishes and have a stable repertoire of four vegetables to work with, the new plastic-free vegetable idea made me rethink what I could be eating instead of maintaining my docility with curry or a different kind of curry most nights of the week.
By ditching my own convenience of having exactly what Ithought I wanted all year round, I was forced to question this entitlement and picked up something much more interesting: seasonal, fresh (re: the dirt), local (hopefully), exciting. And no plastic to shamefully sneak into the recycling after the dishes are done.