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Soup, Wonderful Soup

At the Seattle Climate Action Plan open house last week, I took a seat at the “Waste” table, joining a breakout group discussing solid waste. Not a bad place to be, since Seattle has an enviable record on solid waste reduction.

Since setting a goal of “Zero Waste,” the city has dramatically reduced the tonnage hauled to landfills. It is now estimated that residents recycle more than 55 percent of its waste. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The city can do better and, in fact, the latest goal is to get to 70 percent.

How do we do it? That was the topic of discussion at the table. We talked about the big problems: construction waste and commercial buildings. And then we went around the table, asking each participant to identity their biggest waste problem.

The gentleman to my right said that, while he was successful with his compost bin, he had troubles dealing with packaging. Too many of the things he buys come with excessive packaging and it’s sometimes a challenge to fit cartons and wrappings into his trash receptacle.

The young woman seated next to him said her problem was spoiling vegetables, perhaps forgotten in the back of the fridge that had to be thrown out. She said with regret, “I really hate to waste food.”

I confessed that I have the same problem. Sometimes I stock up too heavily on vegetables – call it the Costco syndrome. In a small household and with an erratic schedule, it would be easy to allow food to go to waste.

However, as the child of Depression-era parents, I long ago learned that the solution, for me at least, is simple: Soup.

About once a week – usually Saturday mornings – I check out the refrigerator and make peasant soup. If you’ve never had peasant soup, it’s as easy as, well, soup. Scoop up your tired vegetables and leftovers and throw them in a soup pot and let them simmer. Because I’m often in and out on weekends, I use a slow cooker.

Later on, after a good simmer, I add a good hot bread or a simple salad. Soup is an easy lunch or supper and it lasts for four or five days.

Flavors vary, depending on the combination of leftovers. The only caution: be a little sparing with vegetables like broccoli that have a strong flavor and try for variety.

The last soup I made started with a cup and a half of leftover stew, augmented with half a can of diced tomatoes (left over from some other project), some limp celery and carrots and a tired bunch of scallions. At the last minute, I threw in a handful of pearl barley and a few lentils, along with salt, pepper and oregano to taste.

The aroma was out of this world. So good I couldn’t resist snapping a pic with my iPhone and sharing it with you.

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