There’s throwing perfectly good food out — and then there’s throwing perfectly good food. A major new study into food waste in New Zealand got a great deal of media coverage in March. In New Zealand each of us is responsible for generating over 60kg of food waste every year according to a 2009 report by The Australia Institute. The cost of that wasted food in New Zealand is $750 million per year, or $458 per household. And we are not alone: the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that a third of all food produced worldwide — an incredible 1.3 billion tonnes worth almost NZ$890 billion — is wasted.
In the light of the statistics you’ve just read, the following festivals below might have a bit of an image problem looming.
ITALY’S ORANGE BATTLE
Every year in Ivrea, Italy, locals celebrate the three days before Lent by pelting one another with oranges. According to legend, the feudal ruler of medieval Ivrea was so miserly that he gave his peasants only one pot of beans every six months. One day as a protest, the villagers threw the beans into the streets. Over the years, the beans were replaced by oranges, which grow plentifully throughout Southern Italy. The custom now known as the Orange Battle involves revellers on parade floats hurling the fruit at their fellow citizens.
SPAIN’S LA TOMATINA
This food fight festival is held every August in the town of Bunol, near Valencia. Thousands of people travel to join what’s been dubbed the world’s biggest food fight as more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. It’s become so popular that it now has to be ticketed to control crowd numbers, and only 20,000 people are allowed to join the messy chaos.
NEW ORLEANS ST PATRICK’S DAY IRISH CHANNEL PARADE
There are several St Patrick’s Day parades and marches in this parade-crazy city, and part of a long tradition is for cabbages, carrots, onions and potatoes to be thrown from the floats and taken back home by the parade-watchers to create a St Patrick’s Day Irish stew. At least it’s not wasted!
ENGLAND’S CHEESE ROLLING FESTIVAL
OK, so they are rolled rather than thrown, but the sport of chasing after huge rounds of cheese as they hurtle down Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire has been going since the fifteenth century. The injury rate is very high — and that’s just the people.
GREECE’S CLEAN MONDAY FLOUR WAR
In the southern Greek seaside town of Galaxidi, locals pummel each other with bags of multi-coloured flour every Clean Monday, the day that marks the start of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church. It’s been running since the 19th century and centres on the harbour, where the fight begins. The food colouring in the flour is strong enough to stain the town’s old buildings, so before over 1500kg of flour is tossed into the streets much of Galaxidi is covered in protective plastic.
JAPAN’S MAME-MAKE RITUAL
At the beginning of every spring the Japanese conduct rituals to drive evil spirits out of their homes. During the mame-maki ritual, families toss roasted soya beans around their houses and chant “Bad luck out, good luck in!” At the end of the ritual, they each eat a bean for every year they have been alive, in the belief that this will guarantee good fortune in the year ahead. Beans are tossed into the street by children, and in temples monks hold parties where they toss soya beans into the crowd.