How To Host A Food Waste Dinner Party
Get Creative About Food Waste
In his book Project Drawdown, author and activist Paul Hawken shares that, “a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. […] the food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.” So, what’s the best way to combat this global issue? Start in your own kitchen—pull up a chair and gather around for a food waste dinner party.
To be clear, a food waste dinner party does not mean cooking with food that has already gone to waste; it’s food that has taken the form of leftovers, ingredients that lurk in the dark corners of our kitchen cabinets, and perfectly good food scraps that are doomed for the compost. In short, it’s an eco-friendly take on a supper club with the goal of preventing unnecessary food waste.
The method is simple: invite friends to bring over homemade dishes made only with what they have in their kitchen. Try your very best not to go out and buy anything extra! Instead, challenge yourself to be creative and to see the possibilities that lay waiting—you’d be surprised at how far you can stretch your leftover farmer’s market haul.
Spruce up your space with your favorite dinnerware (you know, those handmade ceramic bowls you love, but hardly get to use?), turn on some music, and light candles, or string up solar lights on the patio. Dinner parties are a wonderful way to deepen bonds with old friends, and connect with new ones. A food waste dinner party does double duty by infusing this gathering with a positive intention to tread lightly and see the value in what we have. Cheers to that.
Here are a couple of options for creating the perfect food waste dinner party!
The Small Dish Supper Club
The small dish style (a.k.a. tapas style) dinner party is an easy solution for making last minute plans, using up peculiar portions of food scraps, and a casual vibe to make things less intimidating for those who may not be confident home cooks. For all these reasons, this format is the perfect introduction to your supper club, and extends a warm welcome no matter what dish you put on the table.
To host a successful get-together, ask your guests to bring two to three small dishes. This can be categorized by course (appetizer, main, dessert) or by food types, such as a salad, a vegan option, or maybe something sweet. Let it be “a little bit of this, a little bit of that,” forgoing the formalities of a typical dinner party. And hey, if you’ve got something in a box, make it! Start by serving the small bites and cold dishes, then work your way up to the warm, hearty plates, and so on. Leave things open-ended and enjoy noshing the night away!
The Traditional Dinner Party
If the small dish style feels a bit too unpredictable, then start with what you know by throwing a traditional dinner party. A simple and straightforward three-course menu takes the guesswork out of it and allows you to prepare ahead of time.
Let your guests choose a favorite dish that they’d like to bring (crafted from what’s in their fridge, of course!), so their strengths shine through. Use soon-to-be wilted herbs as garnishes, or to punch up a homemade sauce. Toss your half-eaten onions and tomatoes in the food processor and give ‘em a whirl, for a super-fresh pico de gallo—and fry up those leftover tortillas to use as chips. The possibilities are seemingly endless. If possible, write down your recipes, or swap tips and techniques with your friends to keep the ideas flowing.
Lay out reusable cloth napkins, compost any actual food scraps, and ask everyone to bring tupperware containers to transport viable leftovers. If you’re looking to up the ante, make it seasonal or choose a theme (southern BBQ, vegan-friendly, etc.) and see what happens. Whatever the end result, it will certainly be tasty.
Need a little guidance? Use these books as inspiration to help you make a delicious something out of nothing:
The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Waste Not by The James Beard Foundation
Cooking Scrappy by Joel Gamoran
Based in the beautiful city of Portland, Maine, Katherine Oakes Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering others to live a more conscious and connected life. She is a contributing writer for The Good Trade, Wayward Collective and pens articles on outdoor travel as the East Coast correspondent at Bearfoot Theory; Katherine is also the former web editor of Pure Green Magazine. Offline, you can find her on a yoga mat or in pursuit of adventure in the wilds of Maine and the neighboring White Mountains.