Disco soup sounds like a recipe for culinary disaster, but in actual fact its list of ingredients, which include cooking, dancing, socializing and preventing food waste, are nothing short of a sensation.
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - J.R.R. Tolkien
Wise words that could have been spoken specifically with the aim of promoting a 21st century food movement that has communities the world over chopping and chatting to the tune of live music. Disco Soup, as it is known, is a novel concept that brings people together to cook, dance and eat using food that falls victim to shape and size prescriptions, and would, in the normal run of things, never make it off the field and onto the shelves.
It all began in Berlin in 2012, when a group of people demonstrating developments in the country's agricultural policy, decided to use the bent, misshapen and thus disregarded vegetables at the heart of their protest to take a stand against food waste.
"There was a ton of vegetables available, so we thought it would be a good idea to make soup for the protesters, and invite a couple of DJs along too," Luise Duhan, Coordinator of Slow Youth Food, the organization responsible for many of Disco Soup events, told DW.
Among those who turned up for a bowl, were a couple of French demonstrators, who were so taken with the idea that they exported it to France, where it quickly took root and has grown into a movement with branches strong and long enough to reach far beyond its national boundaries.
"There are now about 400 events a year organized through the slow foods youth network," Luise said. "It has spread as far as Kenya and Brazil, and is happening in at least 25 countries around the world - maybe even more."
A moveable feast
So just how does it work? That, Luise says depends on the organizers and the scale of each disco. Some people might choose to host an intimate gathering at home, providing cutlery and crockery themselves, whereas others go for something on a more ambitious scale, such as some Berlin events, which draw as many as 1,000 hungry helpers.
Though the size and location of a Disco Soup are subject to personal whim and preference, there are two constants: Music, which can be a DJ, a live band or just a playlist on someone's computer, and food.
It usually comes in the form of fruit and vegetables, either rescued from supermarkets and market vendors who can no longer sell it, or collected directly from local farmers. And as Luise explains, they are generally happy to see produce that doesn't make the retail grade put to good use.
"Farmers give us vegetables for free, although we try to pay them something as we believe it should be sold for the same price as other produce, because it is just as good."
From parties to politics
Getting this message across is a crucial part of the whole project. But can relatively small groups of people getting together to cook and dance really pack enough of a punch to put the issue of food waste on a visible public, and indeed political agenda?
"Yes," is Luise's determined response. "We have already achieved so much with Disco Soups, so many people have embraced them and take it seriously, that it's clear we need to discuss the issue."
And bit by bit, the discussion is finding its way onto the table. Disco Soup organizers in France were invited to parliament to talk about food waste, and just this year, Paris passed a law obliging supermarkets to give food to charities rather than destroying it.
The Slow Food Youth coordinator regards that as a great achievement. And she's right. And it just goes to show that a good recipe really can work wonders. Bon Appetit.