Italians have long been loathe to take home from a restaurant what they don’t eat, partially because portions are reasonable enough that often Italians don’t have anything left over that they can’t eat. Several months ago, though, a non-profit group that works with homeless people in Milan, Cena dell’Amicizia, began a project called “Il buono che avanza,” (“The good things left over”). Restaurants in the Milan area can voluntarily take part, whereupon they are provided with doggy bags and a sticker by the non-profit. The idea is to fight the idea of a throw-away, consumerist society where waste is normal and recycling (even of food) is looked down upon. This is not really avantguarde thinking for Italy, but rather a return to the norm: up until the beginning of the boom economico in the 1950s leftovers were simply the basis of the next meal.
Interestingly, according to the Smithsonian’s Food&Think blog, the tradition of a doggy bag in the US also began out of a similar civic-minded project, this time to combat cruelty to animals. The first initiative was in San Francisco, with “Pet Pakits,” followed by Washington with “Bones for Bowser.” ZN