When you’re trying to reduce food waste, you suddenly become hyper-aware of everything you come into contact with. From the core of a cabbage to the strings on your banana, you’re always thinking, “Can I compost this?” If you’re eating a mostly plant-based diet, like we are, then the short answer is going to be yes. Anything that once grew in soil can be returned to the soil. Same goes for anything made from plants – like most paper goods. But what about baked goods?
That’s the predicament we found ourselves in this week. Right out the gate of our food waste project, we were handed a fruit cake. Yes, a fruit cake. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, it came alongside a box of awful tasting pumpkin spice cookies (made from one of those bagged grocery store mixes). Both containers sat on the counter for days. The fruit cake is still there, taunting me. (Notice how the photo makes it look way more appealing than it actually is??)
Let’s talk about the cookies first. They were break-your-teeth-off hard. Not the kind of cookie that makes you want to go back for another, that’s for sure. We couldn’t toss them in the trash but we definitely couldn’t eat them either, and we couldn’t compost them. Or could we? There’s some debate on the compostability of baked goods. On the upside, they will eventually break down in the compost bin. On the downside, they are most likely to attract every squirrel, raccoon, opossum, and bird in the neighborhood before they do. We ultimately decided to save them a step and just hand over the cookies.
My mom’s backyard is a veritable sanctuary for wildlife. She has birds of all shapes and sizes (even turkeys), small mammals, deer, and a lumbering little opossum that we affectionately call Otis. They come to her yard for one reason – she’s been tossing stale bread out the window every week for 30 years. Whatever your take on feeding backyard wildlife, we have yet to see one bird swell up and die from eating a crumbled biscuit. We do however see them come back in flocks year after year. Yesterday, we had 8 cardinals, 15 finches, and a woodpecker on the bird feeder, nibbling on birdseed infused with pumpkin spice cookie crumbs. On a side note, I also used some of those crumbs, created in the food processor, as a crust in the bottom of a pudding made of pureed acorn squash and apples. Unlike the cookies themselves, it was rather tasty.
But the fruit cake? There are only so many things one can do with a fruit cake when eating it is not an option. (I really did try. I ate one whole slice, washing it down piece by minuscule piece with a mug of hot tea.) Fruit cakes are filled with candied fruit and alcohol. Even if it were compostable, which I’m not sure it is, I can’t imagine putting those ingredients in our bin. And feeding it to animals? I’m not sold on that idea either. Otis stumbles around enough as it is without getting him drunk off a fruit cake.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to decide the fate of a fruit cake. We would never buy one in the first place. But gifts are a different story. You don’t want to hurt the giver’s feeling, especially when they’ve worked so hard and spent so much money to bake the world’s most hated cake and ship it to you. But you also don’t want to make yourself eat something you find unappetizing. For the time being, our fruit cake will sit in purgatory (on the counter). If you have any suggestions of how best to dispose of it or even make it more appetizing, we’re all ears.
Food Waste Update
- Wasted Food: 3 liquid ounces (milk, salad dressing)
- Found Food: 33.75 US pounds
Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.