Wicked Waste

There was a terrible item in the news the other day, I wonder if you read it? It made me quite sick and it was to the effect that a third of all the bread sold in Britain ends up in the bin, uneaten and wasted by greedy people whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. “Bulk buying leads to bulk eating and bulky people” my mother used to say. It leads to the dreaded Waist of Time. But my parents were also of that interwar generation who wasted nothing.
When my father died we found boxes neatly stacked with all kinds of odd things that might come in handy: feathers, scallop shells, pipe cleaners, string, slivers of Wrights Coal Tar soap.
Great smell, that soap, by the way.

As my father was a country vet we largely lived off the land: a brace or two of pheasants were usually rotting into ripeness in the coalhouse, and many clients paid their bills in kind: even to cascades of slightly whiffy prawns. What we couldn’t eat went to the dogs; what the dogs refused was polished off by the hens who also provided eggs and meat. We shopped daily as most people did then; the supermarkets did not yet hold absolute sway. None of us were fussy eaters and I remember nothing ever needing to be chucked out: we were an universally consuming household.

I often use the metaphor of equating food with perfume: both nourish and stimulate, both may be aphrodisiac, should smell good and are at their best when fresh. Both also need regular re-application. You cannot expect taste, nourishment or smell to last for ever. Therefore try to avoid keeping your perfume for that special occasion … that never comes. Or when it finally does, the beautiful scent is somewhat past its best, so that then it never gets worn at all. Think of perfume as lovely BECAUSE ephemeral and use it liberally and at its best. It is as wrong to hoard a scent unworn for years as it would be to keep a piece of luscious fruit till it wizens and rots. This breeds guilt and in the end a resentment of the thing wasted. To coin a phrase from Shakespeare’s Richard II :
“I have wasted perfume and now doth perfume waste me…”

And if you are the type (like myself) who tends to accumulate endless half-filled bottles that you’re still smelling but not wearing, then use them up creatively in 100 ways. Let me not echo Diana Vreeland’s Vogue advice to “turn that old ermine opera coat into a bath robe”, but do be imaginative. Perfume your bath water with a quick spray; freshen rooms and linen (or the dog); if you’re still writing letters, fragrance your stationery. Your cigarettes. Bed linen. The car. And the inside of suitcases, your shoes, waste paper baskets, wardrobes and cushions. With fabrics, of course, do a patch test first, but most modern perfumes should not stain. Find some way of enjoying those left-overs – and in a way that will please others, too, even if you can’t quite bring yourself to give them away.

There is still a misconception that spraying a perfume is less economical than dabbing it on – “so much must be lost in the air”. In fact the reverse is true: using an atomiser disperses the fragrance and breaks up the molecules far more efficiently, while using only a fraction of the perfume applied by hand. And a sealed atomiser keeps the perfume airtight and uncontaminated: thus avoiding more waste. Keep it clean and keep it green! Please do write in with your own favourite tips.

There are also, as I’m sure my readers know, a multitude of delicious and useful ways of recycling stale bread: from poultices to the Prince of Wales’s favourite pudding. Waste not, want not: it has never been more true.


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