On a recent grey morning in Paris I waited to meet Alice Blaise at the cosy 18th arrondissement restaurant Soul Kitchen. Alice is one of the founders of Disco Soup, an association that aims to educate people about the prevalence of food waste through hands-on community outreach and organizing.
A typical Disco Soup event consists of claiming a public space, filling a table with recuperated vegetables that, for reasons either aesthetic or pertaining to overzealous eat-by dates, were otherwise destined for the trash bin, and asking passersby to participate in collective vegetable peeling and prep work. The end result is a massive batch of soup that is then shared with all present.
Since its creation in 2012, the association has seen over 50 cities host their own Disco Soup events and has been contacted by people all over the world who are interested in bringing the concept to their country.
But the reason I asked Alice to meet me wasn't to talk about Disco Soup, but rather her most recent venture, Confitures Re-Belles. Not one to take a disco nap, Alice launched her new project after hearing about the British chutney makers Rubies in the Rubble. The concept is simple but brilliant, would-be wasted fruits and vegetables are collected and re-sourced to make interesting and ever changing flavors of jams and conserves, taking the "your trash is my treasure" approach to the extreme.
Along with her roommate Colette, Alice has tackled the logistics of sourcing and preparing massive quantities of jams in a tiny Parisian apartment, all without having ever made home preserves in her life.
The challenges of living in a 6th floor walk up apartment with minimal kitchen space have slowed production, but the project is still picking up steam. The team is putting together a business plan and looking for sources to fund the materials and working space needed to prepare their creative concoctions with flavors including Grape and Star Anise, Tomato Vanilla, Strawberry Mint, and Mandarine Raspberry.
The ever-changing produce that is sourced from area supermarkets, markets, and food banks provides for constant inspiration for new flavors and products. The pair are also constantly on the lookout for new recipes and savoir faire when it comes to the age old art of home canning. Alice's white whale is a banana confiture- which she has heard of but never seen in real life.
But besides bunches of bananas, what the girls really need is a space to call their kitchen. Co-cooking spaces such as Les Camionneuses sponsored shared kitchen are great resources to nomadic chefs, but pricing can be restrictive considering the fact that Alice and Colette have spent entire weekends transforming recuperated produce into pots de confiture. Crowd funding and other fundraising methods are being considered, as well as the possibility of seeking financial assistance from city-based programs.
Until then, you can peel vegetables with Alice and co. at the next Disco Soup Paris event, Thursday February 6 at Dauphine Durable's "Green Week" event.