Everywhere, Scarcity Breeds Creativity
If I throw a dart, blindfolded, at a map of the world, there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll land on a region with a deep, rich culinary tradition based on scarcity and thrift in the kitchen. From Lima and Charleston to Rome to Saigon, entire cuisines have been created from that rare, combustible alchemy that happens when frugality collides with ingenuity. Survival, it turns out, is the mother of culinary invention!
I’m reminded of this every time I find myself in another country, or another region of this country. Eating around the world has been my pathway to inspiration—a path that led to me co-founding The Spare Food Co.
Chilaquiles in Mexico, bubble and squeak in the U.K., ribollita in Italy, and rice grits in the American South—these regional staples-cum-iconic-dishes epitomize the zero-waste ethos, long before such an obvious notion existed. It makes me think of maverick chef Doug McMaster, of the revolutionary restaurant Silo in London, who emphatically declared that “Waste is a failure of the imagination.” Those anonymous cooks who came up with pot au feu—or its Vietnamese analog, pho—certainly weren’t short of imagination. More likely, they were short of food.
A breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipe inspired by fattoush, shakshuka, panzanella, and chilaquiles.
⅓ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 cups stale pita bread, ripped into chunks
2 overripe medium tomatoes, chopped or crushed by hand
1 small jalapeño, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
½ cup roughly chopped parsley and cilantro, stems included
Heat the oil in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and pita and sauté for 2–3 minutes, until the pita is lightly toasted and the garlic is browned. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the pita from the skillet and set aside on a plate. Add the tomatoes and jalapeño to the skillet and stew for 5 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Return the pita to the skillet and stir in the herbs. Crack 4 eggs over the top of the mixture and simmer for 2 minutes. Place the skillet under a hot broiler for 1 minute. Remove and serve hot.
Adam Kaye is the co-founder and chief culinary director of The Spare Food Co. and former chief culinary officer of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.