In a country where there are hungry mouths in every corner, food waste is shameful
Food can be found everywhere in Dhaka, just look at the number of restaurants and weddings taking place, and yet so many people don’t get to eat. Not only in Dhaka, all over the world there is so much food, and yet thousands are starving in many countries around the world including our own.
Growing up, we all come to realize that food is the result of economic disparities in any society -- but simply realizing this does not solve the problem. For the last two days, there have been some serious discussions surrounding food in my family -- this time because of my brother’s recent blood report showing an increase in the level of triglyceride.
All the senior males in my family suffer from high levels of fat in their blood due to excessive amounts of carb and meat intake. My eldest brother, therefore, has been lecturing us in controlling our diets while my father has even made threats to throw away any meat if it is cooked in the house.
However, every time they give these dietary warnings, they themselves can be seen devouring plates of food, given most of such conversations take place over lunch or dinner.
Easier said than done.
It’s just not my family -- I see people in Dhaka suffer from this disease of over-eating. Now, we all know the harmful effects of it related to heath. Though not as many people are suffering from obesity as in America, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise in our country as well. However, it’s not health that I have in my mind at the moment, but something else: Waste.
Waste what exactly? Money is the immediate thing that comes to mind, but, in many cases, it is food itself. We all know that there is very little to do for recreation in Dhaka except going out to eat.
So, despite good food being available in the house, we often go out and eat at restaurants wasting both money and also the food.
Also, sometimes, we are not necessarily hungry but we want to try some new food item at some restaurant.
One of the most egregious examples of food being wasted is in the concept of the buffet -- a personal pet peeve of mine. More than often, I see people piling up plates of food only to end up wasting most of it. I understand the urge to take all that food, mainly because we want to try out all the dishes and that there is usually a hefty price that you have to pay up front.
But it often leaves me wondering what happens to all that food being wasted. I was invited to one recently, and I still look back on it with some degree of irritation.
Eating out, as we know, is always more expensive, because one doesn’t only pay for the food but also the service and the experience. Yes, sometimes it’s convenient, for example, those quick lunches during office breaks.
Eating out is a common feature of cities where people live more independently and are too busy to cook for themselves, so the practice is logical.
These office lunches in cheap roadside “sawdust restaurants” (as Eliot put in Prufrock) have always been around in certain parts of Dhaka.
I am not talking about those, rather what I have in mind are the posh and expensive cafes/restaurants which are mushrooming all over Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi these days.
Quite surprisingly, many young adults in Dhaka nowadays seem to have a great deal of expendable money to spend at these upmarket restaurants. Perhaps it is an indication of our rising GDP? Or an alarming increase of credit cards being made available through the interest-hungry banking system? Or perhaps it is just an exhibition of bourgeois affluence accumulated by unchecked means?
Maybe, this money could be better spent somewhere else (over books or charity) but then, youngsters are often not given that opportunity or guidance to make that decision themselves. That is a failure of us elders as parents, teachers, and the nation as a whole.
To make matters worse, the peer pressure by social media check-ins cause people to eat more and more outside. Restaurants, or even individual entrepreneurs, naturally take advantage of this system through Facebook, Instagram, or what have you. However, the manipulation and persuasion this system features in driving the food habits of the people, especially the young generation, of our country, is alarming.
For example, recently, there is an increasing fascination with sushi these days. I am not saying there is anything wrong in liking sushi, but there is something sad in our people not eating fish cooked in Bengali style at home, but going gaga over the same rice and fish served in the Japanese style just because it’s an imported idea.
Of course, we need to eat to live and we love eating, both at home and out.
Eating out can be fun and recreational -- more so during special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries -- but like everything else in life, eating out all the time is not good for us. Gluttony is a sin, after all.
Along with health hazards, people, especially youngsters, should remain cautious against the invisible force of hegemonic food trends which are emptying our pockets and shaping our lifestyle.
Anika Saba is a Lecturer, BRAC University.