Misfits Welcome: This Café Only Serves Ugly Fruits and Veggies
They’re the ugly ducklings of the culinary world: two-headed potatoes, gnarled carrots, tomatoes with a tail. But while supermarkets jettison anything with a knob where it shouldn’t be, two Berlin residents see opportunity in all that is misshapen.
Lea Brumsack and Tanja Krakowski recently opened Culinary Misfits, a café that aims to turn the problem of food waste on its head. They work with local farmers to procure produce that others reject.
“Our goal is a healthy and fair culture in which producers, food, and resources are valued again,” reads their German-language website. “We’re therefore inspired by crooked noses and oblique appearance and use them to create delicious vegetarian dishes.”
The pair studied product design but became interested in sustainability and food culture. While in school, Brumsack centered her final thesis on the expanding distance between people and their food. Krakowski sold crooked carrots from a bike.
“Once the two of us got together, there were more activities like this,” Krakowski told CityLab. “Then came the catering requests.”
The women are in good company in Germany. A project called Dinner Exchange Berlin caters meals using leftovers from shops and farmers markets. Through the website Foodsharing.de, strangers across more than 200 German cities take and give away extra food for free. About 100 sites with stocked refrigerators and shelves are open to the public. Within 18 months of the network’s launch, 40 tons of food had been exchanged, according to NPR.
Still, there’s still a lot of work to do. According to Brumsack and Krakowski, about a third of each harvest in Germany is thrown out because it fails to meet aesthetic standards. In the U.S., people toss 40 percent of the food they buy.
“All of these supermarket carrots, they’re like soldiers in their plastic bags,” Brumsack told The New York Times. “What people buy, it’s not natural…. [J]ust outside of Berlin, the trees are weighed down with apples nobody is picking.”