Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Valuing Food

"I've been feeding myself like this for years. Not because I have to, but because of my political convictions."
"I find our way of consuming and throwing out food is totally absurd, as if it had no value."
Aladdin Charni, Freegan Pony restaurant, Paris
Freegan Pony - Paris, France. Comptoir de la cuisine
Freegan Pony website

"Hands down - this is the coolest and hippest spot in Paris at the moment."
"What is Freegan pony? Tucked away at the edge of Paris, you'll find this gem in the most improbable spot. The vibe here is definitely very underground and you really must come see for yourself to experience it."
"When I was here, we had a delicious tomato soup as a starter, then a dish with couscous type grains and tomato and fried onions with a white sauce, followed by rice pudding for dessert."
"Once you open the door to this underground lair, you first sign up at a small table and are explained the concept, as well as given a membership card to the association. Reservations are an absolute  All the tables, furniture, decoration, silverware, etc is all second hand and gives it a really vintage feel. It's really an experience eating here."
"It can be a bit nippy in here, so make sure to bring an extra sweater and dress warmly!"
"You then wait for the kitchen staff to call your name. One of the members of the association came over and explained the concept and the evening's menu to us, letting us know that they had put a lot of love into sorting through all the Rotten tomatoes and salvaging what they could. It was cool to have that kind of interaction with the association members/volunteers and give it a more personalized feel. I'm sure it's not an easy task concocting menus and cooking for 50!"
"At the end, when you've finished eating, you must clear away your dirty dishes and leave them in a designated area, which will have been explained and shown to you upon entry (just like at the cafeteria)."
"At the end, it's up to you to choose how much to pay. There is no set price, and you choose to give the amount you want. It really makes it accessible to everyone."
"To sum up : if you haven't been here yet, seriously what are you waiting for? This place is AWESOME. Can't wait to come back!"

Freegan Pony review, Elizabeth W., Paris
There are many people who think about food, and the shortages of it around the world. These are the people who deplore the fact that while we in the developed world have an abundance of whole foods to choose from, all too many of us choose quasi-food, pre-packed, pre-processed, and unhealthy, to represent our diet. The ready availability of food that has been processed ad infinitum, taking it about as far as it's possible to go from its natural state, responds to the fact that people have no patience with cooking for themselves.

There's also a dearth of time available, when so many other things call out for attention in a busy lifestyle, so choosing inexpensive, energy-dense and nutrient-deficient food has become 'normal'. What has also become normal is that too much of this kind of diet leads to populations becoming increasingly overweight-to-obese, suffering significant health problems with the onset of chronic, life-challenging diseases and illnesses as a result of what has become an unfortunate habit.

While we are obsessed with food since without it we cannot exist, we accept counterfeit food posing as healthy alternatives because advertising and public relations have convinced us that these choices make our lives easier and less complicated. There's a demographic that is turning now to realizing that whole foods that present as less-than-perfect in their natural forms; fruits and vegetables that have grown somewhat deformed rather than perfect in shape and colour, means that before they even get to the farm gate they're disposed of, since no one will buy them.
Freegan Pony - Paris, France. Petit apéro chou
Freegan Pony website

Some supermarkets, sensitive to the demands of shoppers who look for these products and expect to pay less for these fruits and vegetables which have all the nutrient value of their more perfect cousins, are beginning to stock them. Some markets have appeared that specialize in these agricultural products that were once spurned, to meet these new demands from shoppers. And then there is the issue of wasted food, where a significant proportion of what is grown is not sold while still fresh, and as a result, discarded.

In Paris, on the 19th arrondissement across a square under a highway overpass there is a set of metal doors where a bright green painted pony identifies a restaurant within, known as the Freegan Pony restaurant. Food is prepared there on a daily basis, and the food that is presented has been sourced from dumpsters. The Freegan Pony restaurant represents an illegal squat; no license or legal permission has been obtained, but there it is, fully operational, popular and pleased to give service to discriminating tastes.

Paris's Rungi market is where most of the food prepared in the restaurant kitchen is harvested, where tons of food at the end of shelf life at the market is discarded daily. Freegan Pony is vegetarian, sometimes preparing vegan meals, whose dishes most often reflect the savour of an ethnic flavour. The usual clientele is mixed; homeless migrants from Afghanistan, for example. But also Parisiens interested in addressing the issue of food waste and eating in an unpretentious yet cool environment.

The restaurant fills an obvious need. While France has instituted a new law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to food banks and the like, this does not extend to food wholesalers. And it is there that Freegan Pony obtains its reclaimed food that goes into its creatively imaginative daily menu which changes constantly to reflect whatever has been collected on any given day. The restaurant serves up to 80 meals nightly, four nights a week, and it is a pay-what-you-wish system.

"I arrived once, and all we had was cabbage, and ... 50 kilos of parsnips ... and a bunch of oranges", laughed Mardi Hartzog, one of the restaurant's cooks. "And so then you just have to start getting really creative. It did end up being mostly a soup, but then I also made a really nice sauce with some over-ripe persimmons, so sometimes you get inspired by things you didn't think were possible", she explained.

Freegan Pony - Paris, France. Another view of inside
Freegan Pony website

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