“Clingfilm is a marvel, because it creates a flexible, airtight seal that prevents drying out and stops, for example, a crust forming on a dough’s surface.” No wonder they call the stuff glad wrap in Australia." Dan Lepard
Dan Lepard spoke those words before going on to explain that these days he tries not to use it. Just to defend him and also to demonstrate how difficult it is to not use something so sort of wonderful. Did you know they use it to wrap around premature babies to keep them warm before they get to the humidity-crib? And for burns too.
Today I put some chicken pieces in a marinade - Nigel Slater's za'atar marinade - put them in a glass bowl and covered the bowl with gladwrap. And yes we do call it gladwrap in Australia even if we use the homebrand variety and not Gladwrap. We use it without thinking, but today as I did I felt guilty. Because I had just read an article in The Guardian's newsletter talking about what we could do instead. And it did indeed make me think back to my childhood when there was no gladwrap. What on earth did we do?
Well, of course, it depends on what you are using the gladwrap for. In today's instance for example, I could just have put a plate on top of the bowl. A whole lot easier than the gladwrap really because you don't have to worry about keeping the gladwrap in one sheet instead of it sticking to itself. In fact David hates using it - although he does - because he often gets into one of those cartoonish situations where the gladwrap sticks to everything except the bowl you are trying to cover. And you know, as I covered that bowl this morning, I thought to myself about using a plate instead, and yet I didn't. Somehow I think we believe that nothing will keep the food as fresh as plastic.
So what did we use before? Well the plates covering bowls and other plates. I do remember that. Tea-towels, sometimes dampened - indeed damp tea-towels are often recommended anyway for covering proving dough. Which I shall also do today as I think I shall serve the chicken with pita breads. I'm going to try my granddaughter's recipe and see if that is any better than my last disastrous attempt.
Tea towels can cover all manner of other things though. And they are washable and much prettier as well. And I have lots of them.
Then there are glass jars and bottles. And here I will pat myself on the back as I do store most of my dry goods in these. In fact a vast number are stored in jars from way back in my young days, when I drank instant coffee. The Nescafé and Maxwell House jars were quite attractive and I kept them to store all manner of things in them. They are still in use. Ditto for the recycled Spanish glass jars that I use for storing my pasta - they decorate the kitchen. I still collect jars - any jars, because I need them primarily for the jam and marmalade days, but also for all sorts of other things that I need to keep and which supplement the set of pyrex storage jars that I also use.
So a bit of a pat on the back for me for this sort of thing. I know the spices should really be in the dark, but they look good on the shelf.
Then I will also pat myself on the back - although maybe this time it's David who should be congratulated - for the biscuit tins in which he keeps his fruit cake and chocolate biscuits. But I do claim the inspiration for a stainless steel rubbish bin in which to store my large bags of rice. The inside container I confess is made of plastic, but it does get re-used. Eventually it will end up as detritus for the generations to come though.
I also re-use plastic bags as much as I can, and, indeed, I try not to use them much at all. Mostly they get used for vegetables and herbs in the fridge and for bread. So what could I do better here? I guess the tea towels could come into play here, or maybe just put them in the crisper as they are - the vegetables and herbs that is. In Pyrex containers perhaps although they would take up more room in the limited space that is my fridge.
Bread? I think we used to have specific bread bins or containers which were made of metal, but I doubt they kept the bread as fresh as in a plastic bread in the fridge. But then again, once we have had a couple of fresh pieces of bread with some soup or with cheese for lunch it is generally used as toast for breakfast anyway, so I suppose it doesn't matter that much. But maybe it would go off quicker if in a bread bin. So I think we'll just have to keep going with the plastic bags, and just keep re-using them as often as I can.
There are all sorts of other wraps out there - some of them cheap like greaseproof paper which I do use, and there is also beeswax wrappings, some of which I was given by my son's ex girlfriend. Many people rave about this. Others, such as an English chef called Ollie Hunter, do not, saying that “Bees need to be left alone,” You can get soy waxed ones though and although these are expensive - both kinds - they can be washed and re-used. You can get them in the supermarket these days.
Another somewhat precious idea it seems to me for covering those bowls are:
"Bowl covers (those things that look like shower caps) are another way to avoid clingfilm – just make sure they’re made of linen, Hunter says, because “it’s less water-intensive and easier to grow than cotton, and it does seem to be better, as long as you like the crinkled look”. Ollie Hunter - chef
Stick to the plates and tea towels say I. There are bamboo things and all sorts of other planet safe containers and wraps which once again demonstrate that saving the planet is sometimes just possible for the well-off - in the West at least. The poor of the rest of the world don't even think of gladwrap I expect, although maybe they do. They certainly use plastic.
Anyway, from now on I am going to make a conscious effort to use less gladwrap. I don't think I do too badly on the rest of the kitchen plastic problem. I just have to get over the instinctive reach for it every time I want to cover something over - if only to keep flies away - and definitely you can use tea towels and the various somewhat wonderful devices that Aldi sells in the summer for that. Or you could go Indian and use those lovely metal tiffin things. Also available in Aldi every now and then. Use them for a picnic - when it gets warm again.