Plastic-free cooking


I can’t remember exactly when it was that my hatred for pasta started. It might’ve been during one of the many, many, many times mum made “salami pasta” for us for dinner as children (I found salami disgusting ergo may have found the creamy tagliatelle used as a vehicle for it disgusting too). It might’ve after eating the watery, doughy, rubbery pasta- never spaghetti- that we were served at boarding school. Or it might’ve been while struggling with an eating disorder as a teenager when I shunned as many carbs as I could get away with.

Whatever it was, pasta has been something I’ve typically avoided for the past ten years and yet on Sunday night I made pasta for dinner, from scratch, and surprised myself by enjoying eating it.

Now don’t get me wrong, my first ever attempt at pasta wasn’t great. The dough was under-kneaded, the pasta lacked “snap” and my ingenious idea of having thick ribbons of it didn’t help while the pesto I served it with was over-salted and lacked tanginess as a result of an improvised recipe with kale from our garden. But as meals go, it was edible, it certainly wasn’t disgusting and my boyfriend and I have both lived to tell the tale.

So, more importantly, how did a self-confessed pasta-hater end up making it? Well, the answer lies in our recent attempts to reduce our plastic consumption. Over the past couple of months, we’ve begun buying dry-goods from bulk-bin stores, getting veggies from the market or the nearby grocers, and sourcing our eggs, milk and butter as locally as we can. After a few weeks, we were eating better and felt like we had more energy. Our kitchen-waste had dropped dramatically and our diet had become enormously more varied.

However, when it came to “easy, quick-fix meals”, we were still a bit stuck. We couldn’t buy cupboard staples like pasta or tortillas because of the soft-plastic they come wrapped in. Both are staples for us;  my partner is a surfer, I’m a runner, and in order to get enough carbs in for energy, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that joylessly chewing my way through bowls of pasta is as inevitable for me as death, taxes and shinsplints.

Since we couldn’t buy pasta or tortillas, we had to make them. And, in spite of the effort, trials and tribulations of doing so, I’ve fallen in love with cooking all over again. Yes, there’s something wonderful about giving people food you’ve made yourself, knowing that you added the flavours you wanted to the food you made, and knowing exactly what’s gone into your food and in what quantities. But there’s something even more wonderful about discovering a whole new world of cooking you’d previously ignored, purely because of supermarkets’ convenience. Pasta, tacos, tortillas- these are all things that, until now, I’d have chucked in my basket on the weekly shop and barely given a second thought.

Now, each of them is a new opportunity to try new things in the kitchen, which, in the evenings, is now the hub of our house. You’ll find me cooking dinner, my boyfriend cleaning up after me, and Sammy- our seven-year-old kelpie curled up near the oven, savouring its warmth.

Naturally, we don’t always get it right. The pesto pasta on Sunday was more than slightly off the mark. But every now and again we do- the tortillas last night for friends or the veggie curries we’ve been seemingly living off. And when we do there’s an indescribable satisfaction that comes from it- a satisfaction that, to me, summarises what cooking, and in turn food, really should be all about.

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