Two people, two bakfietsen, one mission: save edible food from getting wasted. Thanos and I meet at 10:30 AM. He is a food ambassador for Taste Before You Waste and usually does the Wednesday food pick-ups. Today he takes me along his weekly route. Our goal is to go to markets in east Amsterdam and collect goodies that otherwise would get discarded. The meals for the Wasteless Wednesday Dinners are prepared with this rescued food. It is a sunny Wednesday and as Thanos calls it “a good day to learn how to ride a bakfiets”. This statement concerns me because I have never tried to ride such a cargo bike before. After today’s pick-up session I will know how to get such a huge bike uphill; even though it is filled with countless kilograms of vegetables. Remark: Only try this if you are already used to ride a normal bike in Amsterdam. Otherwise you will be simply overwhelmed by Amsterdam’s busy traffic.
The food pick-up
In case you were wondering; my first ride with an empty bakfiets happens without any complications. Our first stop is a bakery where we get – now hold on tight – a piece of chocolate cake! What a delicious start! The next stop is a Turkish supermarket. The shop owner gives us various crates of salad, green beans, carrots and eggplants/aubergines. The bakfiets fills up quickly. According to Thanos this has not happened in a very long time. The surplus of food might be due to the changing weather conditions such as higher temperatures. Because the bike is full, we need to get the second bakfiets. Also this rapidly fills up after we visited three other shops. Next step: Navigate the heavy cargo bike to the Dokhuis Galerie. We have to overcome two steep bridges on our way home. Fortunately Thanos supports me during the critical – uphill! – stage. Due to months of preparing my legs for such exertions (ergo riding my bike every day), I am doing pretty well and we make it back to Dokhuis safely.
“We hardly ever had so much food before”, says Sophia, todays coordinator of the Wasteless Wednesday Dinner, when she first sees the amount of rescued food. Iceberg lettuce, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, artichoke, carrots, potatoes, spinach, apples, watermelons are piling up in the headquarter of Taste Before You Waste. Here at Plantage Dokhuis food ambassadors are sorting, washing, peeling, cutting and preparing the meals for the Wasteless Wednesday Dinner. The food ambassadors are mainly students and Taste Before You Waste interns. Every Wednesday they start the preparation at 2:30 PM. Until we can serve you yummy dinner, some steps have to be taken:
Step#1: Get an overview of the goodies.
Step #2: Decide what can be made with it.
Step #3: Cook it, bake it, broil it, toast it.
Due to the fact that we saved so much food during this pick-up, our amazing food ambassadors have to split into groups to do all three steps simultaneously. The distribution of tasks is different each week and relies for a huge part on the amount of rescued food. While some are still sorting products, others are already peeling carrots and cucumbers, or are cutting tomatoes. I ask a girl about her plan for all those tomatoes. Her answer is straight forward “I like tomatoes, and I know the recipe for gazpacho. That’s why the starter will be gazpacho.” Being part of the Taste Before You Waste team means bringing in your own ideas and getting them heard. The food ambassadors are the most essential part of the Wasteless Wednesday Dinners. Because of their hard work you can enjoy meals made with love and support reducing food waste.
The doors open at 6:30 PM. The chalkboard at the entrance gives you a preview of today’s luxurious menu. As every week, three courses have been prepared. Due to the amount of iceberg lettuce, the main dish is a rich salad with roasted veggies. Even the dessert, yummy carrot muffins, includes vegetables. Taste Before You Waste Dinners are a source of vitamins and you can enjoy it for a suggested five Euro donation. This Wednesday we welcome around 70 guests. All seats – upstairs and downstairs – are taken up quickly. Now it is not only Thanos and me with a mission; it is 70 people who save edible food from getting wasted, and – let me tell you, it feels really good.