Values shift toward sustainability during the coronavirus pandemic
We made history last week. For the first time in modern and ancient history, our family didn’t throw away any food. We ate everything down to the last scrap, morsel, crumb and whatever else that was on the plate staring back at me.
Correction: I ate everything. As for the others, I also ate the last scraps, morsels, crumbs and whatever off their plates so nothing would go to waste.
I kept asking, “Are you going to eat that? No? Well, hand it over.” Sounds disgusting doesn’t it? Well, as Thomas Paine once said, “These are the times that try men’s souls ... and stomachs.” Not that I’m a glutton. It’s just that nowadays nothing can go to waste, and nothing will go to waste if I have my way.
Everything was eaten — wilted salad, stale rolls (perfectly good if toasted), potato chip crumbs (from the bottom of the bag) and every last drop of ranch dressing (I kept the bottle upside down).
I even discovered leftover Halloween candy — Twizzlers, Snickers and Mounds, which we should have thrown out four months ago, but now, no way. Against my better judgment, I ate it even though the last thing I need is an Almond Joy.
The dog, of course, is another story. I haven’t resorted to eating her leftovers of the human-grade dog food we buy at Whole Foods but I’m keeping my options open. How bad can it be if it comes from Whole Foods? It has to be a lot better than Gravy Train, which I’d never consider eating.
I’m an omnivore but this is a bit of a challenge. However, given the state of the world, I figure “waste not, want not” is an attitude we need to adopt. Back in the 19th century, parents commonly told their kids, “Waste not, want not,” and that bit of homespun wisdom makes sense now more than ever in our throwaway culture. Ever since the 1950s, America has done a lot more wasting than wanting, but the times they are a-changin’.
Last night, my wife tore a napkin in half and we shared it. Suddenly, the idea of sharing has taken on new meaning. When there was only a little beef stew left in the bottom of the pot, we offered it to each other. Nobody has first dibs on anything anymore.
They say you should eat only until you’re 80 percent full, but I could never quite figure out how you calculated you were 20 percent short of being stuffed, so I stop at what might be 70 percent full even though I find myself waking up hungry in the middle of the night. I figure I’m in good company when millions of people go hungry every day and not by choice. They don’t have the luxury of creeping down to the refrigerator for a late-night snack.
Our priorities are changing during this crisis. All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so important to have the deck stained or the car waxed. My wife, for the first time in adulthood, didn’t mind that her roots were showing, and neither do I since the little hair I have went gray a long time ago.
Last week, our daughter was distraught because she couldn’t find paper towels or Kleenex in the supermarket. The all-knowing Millennial Generation should take a lesson from the Greatest Generation, who didn’t have paper towels and Kleenex. They used “mopeens” (dish towels) and “snot rags” ... which are sustainable, by the way.
Our values are undergoing a seismic shift. We’re more concerned about caring for others, we’re not so cavalier about what we waste and we’re not so worried about keeping up with the Smiths (We don’t have any Joneses in our neighborhood.)
We’re spending more time with our families, we’re talking, we’re reading, we’re praying, we’re sitting in silence — at least those of us who aren’t binge watching on Netflix. We’re doing all the things we forgot how to do but which are fundamental to a good life.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.