With a side of gravy

Several years ago now, I was at a restaurant trendy with the University crowd I was peripherally involved with, and, as usual, could not finish my meal. One of the guests in our party said, ‘you’ll take that home, yes?”.

I stared at him with an odd expression and said, “I hadn’t thought of it, no.”

And he said, “then may I?”

Figuring he was Strapped For Cash, I pushed my plate toward him and told him ‘by all means’.

Months later, at a different restaurant, with a different group of peripherally-known University friends, I saw the same dinner guest, with a couple of other folks at the table. I began to wonder how he could afford to eat at restaurants so frequently if he was so Strapped For Cash that he had to ask *this* group for *their* leftovers. Turns out he was not Strapped For Cash at all. He was appalled at the incredible waste (of food) he saw in North America. He was, as you might have guessed, a student From Away. He would later talk to me about the scarcity of food in many of the places he’d been in his short life (a discussion that left me feeling like a complete asshole for not having joined the foreign legion at age four). I hadn’t really thought about it, except for that time I worked at Burger McFlippin’s for a summer and balked at how much food they threw out each night into the dumpster that they locked so that hobos couldn’t, God forbid, eat perfectly good food FOR FREE.

Well. Not perfectly good food. Really terrible McFlippin’s, but even that’s better than nothing if you’ve not eaten in a week.

Anyway, I got to thinking about all the times in my very privileged life when I’d turned up my nose at overcooked vegetables, or left the table with a mound of food I couldn’t eat. Ever since then, I’ve asked for take-away containers if I cannot finish my meal. Most of the time I remember to eat the leftovers. And when I forget, and it ends up in my compost, I feel *incredibly* guilty.

Which brings me to something that made me *really angry* tonight. I dunno if you’ve seen this television programme – the kids love it – called Wipeout. It is based on a Japanese game show in which people (who I can only assume are three sheets to the wind) compete in an obstacle course made of giant padded battering rams and hydraulically powered movable sidewalks, etc.. Apparently the whole point of the ‘game show’ is to see how ridiculously folks can embarrass themselves by face-planting into every obstacle. Admittedly, sometimes it’s pretty funny.

But tonight, one of the obstacles involved people in a tower throwing food at the contestants. An entire five-litre bucket of tomato sauce; cooked spaghetti; pizza; meatballs. It was horrible. All I could think of was some poor kid watching this on TV, who hadn’t had a good meal for months. Which then reminded me of this book I just read, the name of which I can’t recall at the moment, about a girl growing up in a really effed-up family.

So yeah. That show pissed me off.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Not that I approve of waste, but I think it needs to be pointed out that food is not in short supply. It really isn’t, at least not now. We have much more than enough food available to feed everyone on the planet. What usually keeps people starving isn’t because someone else *wasted* food, or that there wasn’t enough to go around…it is much more like locking up the McFlippin’s discards so the hobos can’t eat them. There are plenty of people willing to let food rot(usually in transport ships) rather than give it away for free. It is used as a tool of control – either as leverage over people, or as an outright means of killing them.

    Doesn’t mean that waste isn’t a bad idea(it is, but for other reasons). But I more and more see food shortages and starvation – hell, poverty in general – not as a product of scarcity, but as something purposefully employed as a weapon or tool of control. Food not bombs indeed. Yes, scarcity still can and is a problem, but it is sometimes depressing to realize it is far from the *biggest* problem. Too often, when someone has more than enough food available to them and someone else has none, they will refuse to give that food away not because they are wasteful, but because giving something away for free is nearly an offensive concept to them – and, of course, because when you start giving things away for free, coercion becomes much harder.

    1. Oh, absolutely.

      If only we had some kind of a system whereby we could redistribute the necessities of life…some kind of wealth-sharing mechanism…

      But even still, even if we have enough food to feed everyone (and believe you me, you wouldn’t have to look too far to find people in my family whose stories of watching food rot on the docks and in the granaries while their children starved and died doing so are still pretty close to living memory), why the hell throw perfectly good food away in a freaking *game show*? It’s the largesse of devaluation I think that really gets my goat. It’s one thing to realise you consume too much in general – nobody needs that many towels, Gram – and it’s another thing entirely to not only over-consume but then to turn around and waste it.

      Particularly when there are people probably in a neighbourhood nearby where they don’t have the option of having enough “disposable income” (a term I loathe) to buy fresh fruit.

      1. I think that is half the point of conspicious consumption, obviously. I guess the thing is, it isn’t the fact that it is food they are wasting that matters – food is plentiful, it isn’t any challenge to obtain it if you have the money in most places. It’d be just as wasteful if they were burning money or…wasting tons of money on a game show. Obviously, they hope that by spending that money it will amuse people enought to make their money back. But, really, the evil here is not the idea of wasting food. The evil is in thinking “I have more resources than I know what to do with…so I should expend those resources trying to collect *more* resources and/or expend them to no effect to demosntrate to others the vast resources I have” as opposed to “I have an excess of resources, I should consider using them to help others.” But, then, that’s capitalism. ;)

        1. Yes, that’s it exactly.
          But capitalism isn’t…or rather, oughtn’t be…about *waste and overconsumption*.
          This is the thing – I have no problem with capitalism, as long as it’s about having ‘enough’ rather than having ‘more than you’. Which isn’t capitalism, right? Or, at least, the profit part doesn’t fit. But if we all strive for *enough*, I’ve far less of a problem with some people having more than others. As long as everyone has *enough*. But now I’m waxing hippy.

          1. I don’t think the essence of capitalism is in “improving my situation” or having enough or the like, obviously. Pretty much everyone in every society wants that. The essence of capitalism really is “Use what you have to get even more”. Thus, capital. :) In essence, in a capitalist society you never have to justify what you have, because having something *is* justification.

            1. I dunno. I think you can extend the understanding of using what you have to make a profit to a far more esoteric “improving my position”, even into a class system. I mean, there are many, many, ma-hany reasons I dislike capitalism. The idea of “more” is the biggest one, though. I think people who aren’t driven to have more, get more, make more, etc., aren’t really capitalists.

  2. I watch Wipeout whenever I can for two reasons: The humour value of watching idiots get bashed around, and as a reminder of the intense greed that controls our society. They get 12 people to do these incredibly stupid and humiliating things for $50,000.

    And adding in the food? Oh my. Yet another sign that the entire point of this show is to prove that people are stupid and greedy. Well probably not the point of the show as the creators saw it, but it certainly is a great example of such.

    My kid just finds it funny. And she likes the idea of trying to go through such a wierd and wonderful obsticle course. So she goes ‘I’d love to do that!’ And I said, ‘Sure as long as I never see it on TV and you never do this for the prize.’ She gave me a funny look and when I tried to explain how stupid these people were, particularily when you realized that all the pneumatic parts were controlled by someone and the game itself wasn’t even close to fair, as they could change the outcome of any race, I realized, ‘Wow… I don’t think I’ve taught my kid properly about greed.’

    So we had a talk. Wow… did I ramble.

  3. Guh. I’d watch that show for the aforementioned lols that it occasionally provides, but the insipid commentary is maddening.

    Seriously – you guys are all language nerds, how on earth can you stand to have your ears assaulted with an hour of that drivel? :)

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