The Student News Site of Teen Scene, Inc

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Like Us on Facebook

Moldy Blueberries

Dan Dodge

The unopened carton of blueberries is covered in mold. It wasn’t buried in the back of the refrigerator where no one could see it. No, these babies were right up front on the eye-level shelf. To make matters worse, they were organic blueberries, more carefully cultivated and pricier than your run-of-the-mill berry. For weeks, my husband had been binging on the little blue orbs—tossing them on his Rice Krispies and ice cream—but these he never touched.

“Look,” I said, showing my husband the snow-like covered blueberries. “They’ve all gone bad. Why didn’t you eat any?”

“I’m on a new kick now,” he responded with a shrug.  Opening his fist, he revealed a handful of Hershey Kisses.   “Relax,” he added. “It’s just blueberries.”

Sure there’s the money, but my dismay goes beyond mere economics. Two years ago, my book club read Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Since the book is very dense and heavy on scientific research, we tackled it by each taking a section. I had food and agriculture. It turns out that food waste is the third greatest contributor to greenhouse gases globally.   Not only does it squander valuable resources, but the decomposing organic matter releases dangerous gases into our atmosphere.

In the 1970s and 80s, I sometimes drove past a mile-long, 60-ft. ridge of garbage along the Belt Parkway. It looked and smelled awful, and I felt sorry for the poor people who lived nearby. NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection has since capped the landfill and planted native plants to create a park. But what lurks underneath? Do the toxic waste and organic matter continue to grow and pulsate beneath the surface, slowly releasing methane and CO2 through cracks in the cement, like the gases now escaping from the melting Arctic permafrost?   The thought makes me shudder.

Despite world hunger, food waste is actually a global problem. According to Drawdown, however, little is wasted at the household level in low-income countries because it occurs early in the supply chain—bad roads, lack of refrigeration, poor packaging. But up to 35% of food in high-income economies is thrown out by grocers and consumers. We spurn imperfect fruits and misshapen vegetables in the produce section, overestimate how many meals we will cook, toss out milk that has soured or lasagna fermenting in the back of the refrigerator.

Kitchen efficiency has become a lost art. Growing up, my mother bought groceries once a week for a family of five, and food was stretched, massaged, and recombined to make three wholesome meals a day. Every ten days or so, she would serve “Aunt Irma’s Casserole Surprise,” a combination of whatever scraps she found in the refrigerator and cupboard. We never got the “think of the poor kids in Biafra” speech, but my father did share his experience of eating ketchup sandwiches during the Depression.   He also liked to cite the Army’s mess hall motto:  Take All You Want But Eat All You Take!

Today we live in a disposable society where everything gets thrown away, and I’m as guilty as anyone else. I insist on having two refrigerators, which increases our chances of stocking up on foods that will likely expire before we consume them. And while I share leftovers with family and friends, my spouse and I frequently “do our own thing.” Sometimes that means scrounging together a meal from what’s left in the fridge, but more often than not, one of us cooks something new or orders take-out.

“Hey,” I say to my husband as I dump the remnants of last week’s chicken stir-fry and some other now unrecognizable conglomerate of protein and saturated fat. “We really should try to reduce our carbon footprint. How about if I whip together Aunt Janet’s Casserole Surprise tonight?”  My husband doesn’t respond; he just gives me the thumbs down, “no-way-Jose” look and pops another Hershey Kiss in his mouth.


More to Discover
About the Contributor
Janet Stiegler
Janet Stiegler, Contributing Writer

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, I attended college at SUNY Albany, where I focused on foreign languages and studied abroad twice (Germany and the then Soviet Union). I met my husband, Paul, in Albany’s Russian program, and we eventually made our way to the Washington D.C. area to work as analysts for the CIA. Over 32 years, we held a series of analytic, managerial, and senior staff jobs while raising two children in Vienna, Virginia. Both attended Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and are now well launched into their careers.

The CIA drummed into me the need to write clearly and succinctly since our audience—U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and other decision makers—had busy schedules. Bottom Line Up Front followed by well-supported evidence and credible sourcing. However, it did not leave much room for creativity, which has made writing for Cape Fear Voices (CFV) so gratifying. My writing circle inspires me, and CFV provides a safe place to test literary ideas. One of my ambitions is to write a creative nonfiction story about my maternal grandfather, who immigrated to this country before WWII.

Since moving to Brunswick Forest seven years ago, I’ve also pursued several educational passions--tutoring at the Cape Fear Literacy Council, supporting Cape Fear River Watch’s youth education programs, and helping host online OLLI classes. Three years ago, I joined the Women’s Impact Network, whose philanthropic outreach seeks to benefit our local community. My husband and I have also done a fair amount of international (Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia) and domestic (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Florida) travel. And last spring, as most travel ground to a halt, we adopted a year-old rescue—Brianna—a proven antidote to the COVID blues.