Movie Review: Bourdain, Batali and Others get after us about Wasting Food in “Wasted!”

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Here’s a documentary that lays out a relentlessly discouraging parade of statistics — 40% of food raised is wasted, 1.4 million tons of food wasted in the U.S. every year, 24 million slices of bread tossed out in the U.K. every DAY. And then it hits us with story after upbeat story of waste bread being recycled into beer in Europe, of a composting, gardening elementary school in New Orleans’ 13th Ward — of Italy, France and South Korea keeping food waste from going into landfills.

But for all the advocacy of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,” its grim depictions of worldwide deforestation to aid food production, food that then all-too-often goes unharvested, or into the dumpster behind your supermarket or into the garbage at you home, your kid’s school or your favorite restaurant, it’s what is done with the food that doesn’t go to waste that gets our attention.

We see chefs in the U.S. figuring out what to do with cauliflower leaves (the biggest part of the plant), with “trash fish” caught in the worldwide trawling of the oceans and Japanese farmers learning to be selective about which re-purposed dietary garbage to feed their pigs to get the most succulent pork on Earth.

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Narrator Anthony Bourdain and assorted activists, authors and journalists lament the $1500 the average America family wastes from its fridge, table or pantry every year, the laughable finality of “use by” dates (more a suggestion, in the case of dried, frozen, bottled or canned foods).

The guy who used to run Trader Joe’s shows off Daily Table, his non-profit inner city market where good but discarded or discounted food is sold in the middle of a food desert.

And the salty-tongued Bourdain (“Kitchen Confidential” and TV’s “Parts Unknown”) and equally salty pal Mario Batali, and other chefs make profane wisecracks about turning this or that discarded or lightly regarded edible item into a delicacy through deceptive naming, mere exposure of the public to the something we, “the dumba–es in the dining room,” should be eating but turn up our noses at.

Seriously, for a movie about garbage, “Wasted!” (Anna Chai and Nari Kye co-directed it) is awfully appetizing. Porgy (fish) and squash stalks never looked so yummy. And Toast Ale? Made from bread Brits and others aren’t getting around to sandwiching? Got to have it.

So if you are throwing it out when that veg or fruit just has a spot on it, stop. Not composting? Get on that. (Ask me about the papaya and avocado trees I have raised from composted seeds.)

And want to fight global warming? Stop dumping methane-producing spoiled produce into the trash can.

And see this movie. Batali gives the always-delightful Bourdain (who felt compelled to do a self-loathing rant over the closing credits) a run for his foul-mouthed money in the acerbic, poetic and pungent ways of commenting on food and what we should be doing to make sure we always have enough of it to feed everybody. Stop wasting it, for starters.

3stars2

MPAA Rating: unrated, with profanity

Cast: Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, others.

Credits: Directed by Anna ChaiNari Kye A Zero Point Zero release.

Running time: 1:25

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One Response to Movie Review: Bourdain, Batali and Others get after us about Wasting Food in “Wasted!”

  1. Mo says:

    Great review. I’ve always appreciated the fact that you never overlook documentary films, Roger. I’m particularly a fan of those about food and the culinary arts, so I’ll be looking forward to giving this a watch.

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