A Malaysian's tips on reducing food waste

I hate rubbish in general, but "wet rubbish" produced from vegetables and meat has got to be the worst. 

I used to follow my Mum's method of getting rid of food waste: throw them into a plastic bag and store that in a bin in one corner of the kitchen and hope for the best.

That never worked well for me. I don't cook often enough, so by the time that bag is full, it would've been a week. By then, it would be a smelly, rotten, ghastly mess. And worse, it attracted and bred pests (found maggots in my wet waste bin more than once). Throwing it out would generally be a nasty experience.

However, last year, in a desperate bid to reduce the roach population in my apartment, I decided to stuff my food waste in the freezer. (No food sources, no roaches, so goes the theory.) 

It worked. But the weirdest thing happened: I enjoyed the experience of not throwing wet garbage out so much that I thought, why not eliminate it forever?

Why not go Zero Waste, I thought.

Zero waste proponents believe that by reducing their garbage, the environment would be better for it. 

But you may think that it's impossible to do it in Malaysia, where recycling is still a thing tree huggers do, and plastic is everywhere.

But I can tell you most assuredly that it is possible, and that I no longer throw out my food waste. Meaning, none of my food waste ends up in the landfill!

Here's how I do it:

1. Waste not and reuse!

Use vegetable scraps to make vegetable broth, bones to make bone broth
I got this brilliant idea from Oh my Veggies: keeps vegetable scraps such as onion skins, stalks and peels to turn into nutritious vegetable broth. I now collect them in a baggie and keep them in the freezer until I have enough.
I do the same for bones; I toss them in a stock pot to make stock. All the waste produced from that I would...

2. Compost

I live in an apartment, but that doesn't mean I can't compost my food. I have a bokashi bucket, which is a brilliant little Japanese invention that enables me to compost despite being garden-challenged. I keep the bokashi bucket in the yard, ready to be stocked with vegetable scraps. Ocassionally, I'd collect the liquid produced from the process and use it to water plants. Once the bokashi bucket is filled up, I'd bury the contents in the ground somewhere for it to complete composting. I also place scraps in my freezer until I have enough for the local community garden's compost heap. 

3. Bring a glass jar or container everywhere

It bothered me that I had to throw plastic and paper cups each time I bought my cha time fix or green juice. So, I bought an RM5.30, 900ml jar from Daiso. I love the jar so much - it has a screw on cover which doubles up as a handle, and that makes it really easy to carry it around, and it's large enough to store my favourite drinks. I do get a weird look from the servers, however. Malaysians are still not used to zero waste folks like me! This, of course, applies to takeout meals as well. For that, I use a glass container.

With these three simple methods, I have reduced my trash to such an extent that I only throw out a bag of rubbish every week. And it's dry, non-smelly rubbish!

My trash situation is still not where I want it to be, however. Ideally, I only want to throw a bag of rubbish once a month, but the most pervasive trash I can't seem to get rid of are the plastic bags my organic vegetables come in with.

Malaysia does have some vegetable subscription box services, where they deliver boxes of veges to your doorstep, but they are eye-wateringly expensive, and the quantity too much for a single person.

I could also make my way to Bangsar's The Hive, where you can collect your vegetable deliveries from local farms in baggies, but I have to be realistic - it isn't convenient for me to drive all the way to Bangsar and struggle to find parking just to avoid getting 'bagged'.

So until then, I'd have to tolerate the crazy amount of plastic bags my groceries generate. Any ideas?

Favourite romance reads of 2016

2016 has got to be the year of the romance novel for me. I must confess sheepishly, that I was one of those people who rolled their eyes at romance novels, declaring them silly and shallow. And yet, I started out my readaholic journey with romances -Judith McNaught, Danielle Steele, Linda Lael Miller and Jude Devaraux were my starter romances. But I began to pooh pooh them after being bitten particularly hard by the literary bug, where I declared fiction that did not change the world was not worth my while.

Fortunately, I have recovered from such delusions and rediscovered the magic of romance novels this year after deciding to read one to break my fiction reading slump (from 2010, I only read non-fiction). Well, golly, it worked and I was swept away by the beautiful magic and I just couldn't stop after that! Here are my favourite romance reads of 2016:

1. CAPTIVE by Grace Burrowes
Hero was tortured for two years by the French. He comes home damaged and well, a little crazy. One day a distant relation - Gillian - comes to his estate and literally bullies him back to health. I love Gillian's strong, no-nonsense personality, and Burrowes captures the pain of PTSD really well. And the hero has got to be the most gentlemanly and kind hero I've ever met. They don't make them like this anymore.

2. NO LONGER A GENTLEMAN by Mary Jo Putney
Again, Putney never fails me! And yes, another hero that was tortured by the French. Hahaha. But the hero is kickass - she literally yanked him out of prison, and together they trudge through dangerous French territory back to England. I literally sighed at the end of the novel - it was that good and I would buy a physical copy just to hug it.

3. A MOST DEVILISH ROGUE by Ashlyn McNamara
I was attracted to this novel because of the cover. No, I'm just kidding. Mine was the super boring UK cover, so there wasn't any sexy butts. But again, strong heroine, who had to face society's condemnation for daring to get pregnant out of wedlock. The hero is a man who sees something beyond her stained reputation. Then there's that convenient cave during a storm. Hot. This is definitely a new author to watch for. 

4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Eloisa James
Sometimes supermarket sushi is what I need, and I definitely love this because of the hero, who is gruff and absolutely rude and without tact. Fortunately, the heroine is as tough as he is.

5. FITZHUGH series by Sherry Thomas
I read the three books of the series in one day - that should tell you how good it is. Yes, yes, miscommunication and lack of talking abounds (like as if we real-life humans do that so well), but the relationships feel very deep and real. The three books, actually, read like one, entwined tale.

Most disappointing book:

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD by Patricia Gaffney
It started so well, Gaffney is an amazing writer, truly. Then the hero tells the heroine: "Don't make this a rape". Yes, it's one of those Old Skool romances where rape is ... I'm not even sure why it's there, really. Was it supposed to be romantic? Sexy? Hot? It was none of that for me and the hero was utterly irredeemable to me after that first rape scene.

 I am surprised that so many people would call this book a classic, and one of the best in the genre. Those who support and talk highly about the book say that the author was painting the picture of a less-than-perfect rake, that as a rake he was what he was. But then, why wouldn't the author paint a real picture of a rape victim? Would a rape victim marry her rapist with love in her eyes?

Perhaps I'm too modern for this book. Perhaps I'm too enlightened, having watching two documentaries of women fighting hard to punish those who raped them, and having society disappointing them again and again because society didn't believe them. Some even thought they deserved it.

After watching these documentaries, there was no way in good conscience can I call this book amazing, enlightening, complex or whatever claptrap description its supporters have foisted on it. This book is perpetuating a dangerous idea in women's heads: That there can be romance after a man rapes you.