I may be a user, but I ain't no abuser

rule number 1:
Always check dates,
and then eat it anyway.
But know what kind of sick you're likely to get.
There's a big difference between the week old sick, and the 3 year old sick.

Rule Number 2:
Wear a hat,
What would your mother say if you caught a cold?
Let's not go there.

Rule Number 3:

Don't forget, you're not beating the system,

you're using it. Without the system you'd be dead,

hungry, or growing your own damn food you lazy sod.


Urban Foraging

Harvesting food from your local urban environment doesn't have to be restricted to just dumpster diving. The folks over at Fallen Fruit are creating maps showing the location of fruit trees and sharing information about what is available and where. Seems like a great idea, sharing food, creating community, reducing waste, but I wonder what the people think who tend to the trees only to find them ransacked at harvest time. While there often seems to be excess fruit on neighborhood trees, and no one wants to see this go to waste, there are some interesting personal property and stealing vs. foraging issues to consider. What's in a dumpster has clearly been discarded, but what's hanging in your neighbor's yard hasn't.
Better yet, since towns and cities plant trees as part of their overall development plan anyways, why not make use of the permaculture principle of stacking functions and plant fruit trees and other edibles in public spaces instead. Creating basins for these plantings in place of beds surrounded by raised curbs would allow for irrigation with rainwater and help address problems of stormwater runoff. Excess fruit could be gathered, prepared, and sold by the city to help offset the cost of planting in the first place. Another possiblity is to use this as a place-based educational tool to teach people about native edible plants and their traditional uses for food as well as medicine.


Cash Crops and Community

Now that we are all well versed in the aspects of sustainability inherent in the practice of dumpster diving, we have begun to appreciate patterns that have evidenced and the community fostered as a natural byproduct of the experience. Let me elaborate.

Our biggest d-diving "cash crop" is Odwalla juice. For those of you who don't know, Odwalla is a brand that makes fresh-squeezed, 100% natural juices and smoothies. They are very good, but often get tossed before they expire because they are so highly perishable (what with the lack of preservatives.) The first time we discovered an Odwalla bounty, we came home with 68 bottles of it. They sell for $3.50 each in the grocery store, so that's $238-worth of Odwalla! We've discovered that Friday is the night they toss the Odwallas, so diving is always an integral part of our Friday nights.

There is a creative challenge that comes along with every dumpstered bounty to cook and eat our findings before they go bad. We've had loads upon loads of applesauce, pasta sauce, salsa, guacamole... all home-made from fresh 'reclaimed' produce - a term coined to be consistent with the language of sustainabiltiy we are all gaining fluency in. Recently the creative surge has found us enjoying such delicacies as orange-basil dressing, cold mango cucumber soup, eggplant caponata, carrot timbales, potato latkes (with homemade applesauce, of course!), strawberry fondue, and even a full-on vegetarian Thanksgiving feast including stuffing, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

As an interesting side-note on vegetarianism... being vegetarians for reasons of sustainablity, Aaron and Marissa considered the ethical aspect of eating meat reclaimed from the dumpster. As we all put on our thinking caps, there was a quick realization that dumpster meat is probably a really bad idea to begin with, so the period of consideration was immediately truncated and we turned our attention back to the vegetarian feast at hand.

Because cooking in our dorm-like occupancy involves constant popping back and forth between each others' rooms to borrow the skillet/double-burner/blender/a spot of butter/what have you, the cooking takes on a real element of community involvement. By the time we all transition to the common room to enjoy the creation of the evening, our sense of community is intensified by the satisfaction of having hunted and gathered the ingredients, brainstormed culinary possibilities, cooked it all up, and paid peanuts, really, for the experience.

Through the necessity to cook large quantities of food, an entirely new social animal has come to be: the cooking party. Six folks, three burners, a bunch of pans, boxes of veggies, and a few beers makes for one good time (and lots of salsa). Our baby's got SAUCE!

Beyond community, we have begun to refine our roles in the process to create, really, what I would refer to as a well-oiled dumpster diving machine. You see, we all understand from other aspects of life, that when working in a team, each person has a unique set of strengths to contribute. Our initial efforts involved as many of us as possible piling into a vehicle for a round about the local dumpsters. This amateur approach has been refined in the meantime, as I, for example, discovered that my strengths are not highlighted in the down-n-dirty dumpster phase. My mere presence seems always to bring bad luck (if I stay home, they come home with boxes and boxes). I recovered quickly from my initial heartbreak at realizing that perhaps I do not have an innate talent for dumpster diving as I realized that the way for me to optimize my contribution to the operation is to cook. J-dawg, on the other hand, has flourished in the "hunter-gatherer" phase of the diving process. Whereas the boys used to be the ones to don their "smegma suits" and dive in, J-dawg has graduated to actually entering the dumpster herself, and lemme tell ya, she's vicious, easily pulling rank in the volume of food collected-to-bodyweight ratio.

Anyway, we are all noticing that we are eating exceedingly well - perhaps better than ever before. As a gauge, J-dawg has noticed that she eats fewer PB&J sandwiches than is typical - a former staple of sustenance. While I have always cooked for myself (since college, anyway), I usually make something I can eat for a few days before cooking again. The community aspect of diving has enabled me enjoy a different creation almost every night!

There have been virtually no medical consequences so far, with the possible exception of peeing lots over the weekend due to the "liquid diet" we impose upon ourselves after finding ridiculous quantities of Odwalla (needing to finish them before they expire.) A related ailment is the "shit-a-brick" syndrome, which follows the finding of bulk quantities of Fig Newtons or the like. I took it easy on the Newtons, myself, but I've heard stories!

Well folks, on that note... Happy Holidays and buen provecho.