Waste is a topical issue these days. Single-use plastic items are the bête noir of our weekly shopping.
I am somewhat horrified to hear that plastic straws have attained level pegging with supermarket plastic bags as an environmental evil, filling our landfills and clogging our oceans. I rely heavily on straws - I always have.
I drink with them. If I go to pick up a glass full of beverage, my cerebral palsy, in its unhelpful quirky way, makes me want to randomly fling it. That would be okay if your acquaintances didn't mind the odd glass of merlot in the face. I don't, however, think I could get away with that gag too often.
I've started to try to stem the flow of plastic straws going into the rubbish. We have started putting straws into the dishwasher. This tends to break the straws down and they then start to leak around their Darth Vader style 'kneecap' bend (my straws are always Gothic-throwback black).
These puncture wounds tend to make me gulp down air along with my merlot. And, of course, that air has got to come out somewhere (not good for greenhouse emissions).
I have been given stainless steel straws and glass straws in the past. My friend Bridget's daughter even gave me bamboo straws from Thai Wong. However, their hygiene has vaguely worried me. I say vaguely because I have always been somewhat vague about hygiene. (I have always seemed to have other things to worry about.)
Our foray into halting wastage hasn't stopped at straws. Now it's only the two of us living at home, we have become more self-reflective. We have been reflecting on how much food we have been wasting, not to mention money.
My daughter, when living with us, was a hygiene freak. Any food that came within coo-ee of its use-by date was chucked out. We seemed to be chucking a lot out or down the gurgler — bananas, meat, bread, rice; enough to feed a wee army.
So we decided to name and shame ourselves. Every bit of food we waste, we now write on the kitchen blackboard.
Our once littered fridge started to look fairly bare as we used every scrap so it didn't have to go on the wall of shame.
The freezer was our next focus for frugality. We decided not to buy any more food until the freezer was depleted. This entailed sorting out the edible from the downright toxic. Numerous cartons of icecream — (90 per cent empty), a frozen native bird (not a kereru, and don't ask), kilos of precooked sausages (from Surfability, thanks to my miscalculation), a daughter's ex-boyfriend's fishing bait and thousands of free-flowing peas all had to be sorted. We had some fairly creative meals to say the least. Curries were frequent, and soups.
At last we were ready to shop. I splashed out and bought a bacon hock to make that classic winter soup last weekend. I happily prepared a stock by simmering the smoked bacon hock, the bottom half of a celery plant, rosemary, countless bay leaves, cloves of garlic and chillies. The trick to a good soup, in my opinion, is not to stew the hell out of the vegetables. One should make the stock and then simmer the veges until just tender.
Now, there are some things I won't do in the kitchen due to self-preservation, not to mention health and safety. So I asked someone nearby to strain the molten stock into a colander over a pot so I could let the bacon hock cool off to flake.
After what seemed an eternity of chopping the root vegetables into uniform cubes using my corny but useful Nicer-Dicer I went to retrieve the bacon hock. But it had gone, not a trace. Instantly my blood pressure started to rise. It hasn't been bloody chucked out? I thought.
After shouting and grouching around for a while, I went out for a breath of fresh air. When I got back, the bacon hock had miraculously re-appeared. I suspect our recycling had reached new levels of commitment, but I wasn't about to ask any questions. The soup was great, but sometimes it pays not to think about the origins of some of its parts.
■ Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust — Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangarei-based advocacy organisation.