Tonight I made dinner with only food from the dumpster.
It was fresh and delicious.
You might think the first sentence precludes the second, but if you look into the dumpster behind any supermarket, you’ll see how this is just not the case. Every day, perfectly good food is thrown away because it has met its (often arbitrarily defined) ‘shelf life date’. Often food stays good for weeks after this date, but cannot be sold commercially to protect stores against the small chance that the food goes rancid early and makes people sick. But let me tell you something: the chances of you getting sick from food that is past its ‘best before date’ is much less than you getting sick from food that has been produced dangerously or improperly – as is the case with most food in the industrial food system. Take the multiple outbreaks of E. Coli or the recent recall of 380 million eggs due to Salmonella contamination as stark examples, if you need proof. One more reason to buy food locally whenever possible, so you know where it’s really coming from and how its actually made.
In any case, dumpster diving is becoming a more and more popular practice for ‘normal’ people – that is, people who don’t need to do it to survive, but choose to do it as a way to combat waste and as a statement against the broken model for industrial food production and commercial distribution. Many of my friends do it, and a couple have even written about it for the Atlantic Monthly Food Channel. I think it’s awesome. Sure, not all the food in the dumpster is still good, but a large majority is. And you never know what you’re going to get, but that’s part of the adventure! We’ve had some pretty incredible finds: some of our best have been whole cases of olive oil and maple syrup, where only one of twelve bottles cracked or were damaged, so the store threw the whole box out. That’s over a hundred dollars of perfectly good product thrown in the trash! Talk about waste, my goodness. Needless to say my house has been enjoying a bountiful supply of 100% pure maple syrup for the past few months now (it will be featured in a brussel sprout recipe soon!).
A couple nights ago, my awesome housie Jesse went on a dumpster run with a couple of his friends, and they came back with one of the biggest hauls we’ve ever seen. Our fridge is completely full, and that’s after splitting everything three ways. We have more food than we know what to do with.
This morning I woke up to lots of snow because there was a huge snowstorm last night. This is what the view from my window looks like, and this is only after a whole day of snowploughs clearing the roads and responsible citizens shovelling their sidewalks:
It was a cozy day studying and reading (I finally finished War & Peace!) so I thought I would make a nice comforting dinner to go along with the day, and make a serious dent in all that salvaged food. We had five big eggplants that I made into some yummy babaganouj with thyme and naan:
We also had like six cartons of eggs in the fridge, so I used some baby heirloom tomatoes and a zucchini and some cheddar cheese and made a big delicious frittata:
close up (forgive the white balance – the lighting in my kitchen is very yellow, and I was in a rush):
Rachel (that cute redhead from my inaugural chocolate truffle post and dirt candy – you’re starting to see a trend aren’t you? She really is that lovely) came over tonight too, cause we hadn’t seen each other since before break, and we cooked together. She pretty much single-handedly made this delicious salad, with red and green oak lettuce, edamame, blackberries, and balsamic vinaigrette:
She also gave me a present! It was a mandolin, the kitchen kind, for slicing things thinly and uniformly – something I’ve been wanting for a while. It was a perfect and thoughtful gift. And some chocolate that I shared with the Cats at rehearsal tonight, which I think they appreciated.
It was only after we had cooked everything that we realised that pretty much everything had come from the dumpster! It was a triumphant moment, because everything tasted so good and it was all free and had been saved from rotting in some landfill somewhere and turning into methane. We felt pretty good.
So next time someone says some garbage about how we can’t feed the world unless we farm industrially with GMOs and more Green Revolutions and stuff, kindly let them know that is is definitely not a problem of production but of distribution that plagues the modern world and enables obesity and starvation to exist at the same time on the same planet. Just point them towards the nearest supermarket dumpster and they’ll get the picture pretty quickly.