This Week’s Specials

Turns out that the lull that fell upon our crisper drawers a couple weeks ago was more like the eye of the FREAKIN VEGETABLE STORM that resumed shortly thereafter.  On that note, Dear Reader, feast your visual palette on the following concoctions.

This bowl of mayhem contains blanched green beans, a tomato-olive-feta tapenade, and a topping of garlic-braised mushrooms.  Yes, those glimmering flecks of gold are the omnipresent cooperative staple officially titled nutritional yeast, but affectionately termed nut yeast, nuttty yeast, or nooch.  We have yet to discover ways to urban-harvest this ambrosia-powder, but mercifully the funds that we save on other produce can be diverted towards greater nut yeast procurement.

Our next little number is a shrimp, asparagus, and spinach sauteé, served on a bed of (store-bought) rice noodles, with a topping of peanut-sesame sauce.  Your otherwise-vegetarian author was especially delighted to encounter this oceanic opulence, having spent several shrimp-free years prior to this mighty supper.

Worry not, our commitment to our local ecosystem is ensured by only the most rigorous of sustainable dumpster harvest practices.

Finally, our Saturday night was marked by the advent of our good friend, Homebrew.  About three gallons of silky raspberry grape booze-nectar rolled their way into our kitchen, eased their way through a variety of filtration devices, and now rest placidly on our table, glimmering timidly and seductively in the dining room fluorescence.

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Food Debauch

One of our members had a birthday recently. We decided to celebrate with a freegan-intensive party, with a single rule: no feeding yourself. The results spoke for themselves (but I can’t help but give a bit of commentary here and there anyway…)

Preparation was swift and jolly — we had a backstock of purchased food that we hadn’t eaten before moving in a few months ago, so we had a lot of luxuries that are never usually dumpstered, such as the cheap-but-rare nori paper (sushi seaweed).

Freegan: Avocado, Shallots, Mock Meat. Purchased: Rice, Paper

Freegan: Basil, Tomatoes, Mozzarella

Dumpsterd: Olives, Chicken, Fish

Dumpstered: A package of figs from Greece for dessert!

The final feast. (not pictured earlier: Bruschetta with freegan bread 'n tomatoes, freegan mini pizzas, freegan funnel cake. Most (but not all) condiments were purchased)

The escalation was only natural: clothing was shed, speakers (also freegan!) were hooked up, and one of us started pouring hot sauce, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream on each other. The hot sauce started to hurt after a while, but jesusmaryandjoseph, food tastes SO much better when the condiments are applied via your lover’s body instead of a bottle. Freegan feasts, sloppy naked dance parties, waking up the next day to find chocolate all over the walls… cooperative living has never been so fun.

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Spring Rolls

Purchased: Rice Paper Wrap

Dumpstered: Tomatoes, Cucumber

Free Sample: Mock Chicken

Best. Breakfast. Ever.

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Trash Farms: Yes, They’re Possible

Among the many strategies available to Freegans, dumpster diving is among the logistically and ideologically weaker in the long term. It’s only as sustainable as the wastefulness of capitalism, and (luckily) that’s hardly something we can rely on forever. If you’re feeding a large amount of people out of a small spectrum of dumpsters, food diversity can be an issue, and what you find left over can be pretty different from what your body needs. Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have nothing but meat and eggs in your fridge, and you start to REALLY CRAVE some vegetables, but all you find that night is limp lettuce. Or vice versa: you have a veritable cornucopia of veggies at your disposal, but no decent source of fat or protein (vegan protein can be especially challenging to dumpster).

Trash Gardens Bring The Fun Close To Home

The true Dumpster Aficionado seeks to close the loop and create a a safe food system by saving the seeds that they find, and PLANTING them. You don’t need to be fortunate enough to own a small plot of land or live near a community garden to employ this strategy (though it helps) — Windowbox Gardens are relatively easy to build, rooftop gardens are a great option for anyone with the key to the roof of their apartment building, and guerrilla gardening is not only a ton of fun, but it can grow into something far more beautiful than you could have initially imagined. Our month-old Trash Garden has mint, potatoes, chili peppers, garlic, peppers, basil, carrots, and more! We planted the plots according to which vegetables we tend to need pretty frequently, but don’t find with sufficient regularity; these vegetables may be different for your local Trash Bioregion, so you’ll have to make that decision according to your own resources and tastes, but keep in mind the old wives tale about colors: diverse color palates on your vegetable plate indicate a wider, healthier range of vitamins and minerals.

Whole Foods Dumpster Finds -- Fish-based fertilizer, bell pepper plants, liquid plant food

If your local grocery store sells plants, check their waste frequently — they’re likely to toss out perfectly healthy plants that weren’t sold before the most recent shipment came in, especially herbs and flowers. You can find flowers, too! I used to live in the Bay Area, where a Trader Joes had a dumpster that was FULL of thornless flowers every single night! (BEST SMELLING DUMPSTER EVER). You should plant them immediately; most of them have already overgrown their small plastic pots, so their roots will probably be pretty cramped by now. Pull them out of the pots by the base of the stalk, massage out the shape of the root tangle, place in a hole, and water as you cover in dirt. This is an especially important time to give them water regularly, because they’ll take a little rehabilitation before they’re back to their normal, hardy selves.

Soon after planting

The picture above was taken a few days after planting a month ago — and goodness have our plants ever been precocious (note the compost bin in the background — a free curb find! The potatoes are coming up as fast as we can mound them, the red eyes of the chili peppers pierce the darkness to glare at us challengingly through our bedroom window each night, and the mint is shooting off so many leaves you’d think our garden was Gen. MacArthur’s response to the Bonus Army in 1932! I can’t wait until I can pick up that damn camera to show you more recent photos! Sit tight, I’ll get it soon, but in the meantime, check out this awesome zines on Urban Permaculture and Guerrilla Gardening.

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Dumpster Aficionado: Back To School Edition

Three of us from Dumpster Aficionado were featured on a panel at UCSD entitled “What’s The Freegan Point” with Professor Milton Saier. It was a huge success; we actually had to move to a larger room to accommodate everyone! To my admittedly limited knowledge, it was the only panel on dumpster diving ever given to a group of bioengineering students in the history of food. Thanks to the UCSD Student Sustainability Collective for hosting the event and inviting us! And thanks to the Panda Express in the Price Center for serving food that is so gross and processed that all of your customers get upset stomachs and throw their food away. Freegan students here must eat like KINGS, albeit kings with chronically upset tummies.

Diarrhea Time

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Aaaaaand We’re (almost) Back!

So Uhh, This Is A Little Awkward…

Didja miss us? The camera went MIA after the last post, so updates are going to be coming a bit more infrequently until we can find it. In the meantime, I found a picture of the Okra we found in the Whole Foods dumpster. There are two ways I eat okra: fried in a voluptuously fatty vegan corn batter, or pickled. This okra was definitely on it’s way out, so we chose the latter option.

Okra naturally contants a thick, snotty fluid (fittingly called ‘mucilage’) that, while extraordinarily healthy, turns a lot of people off to this wonderful southern vegetable. Pickling is a good strategy for okra in part because it can help distract people from the mucilage; the flavor is definitely sparkier, and people generally expect their pickles to be at least a LITTLE slimy anyway. Usually I don’t use any brine — just vinegar and spices — but this time we were hoping to draw the fermentation process a bit longer, so we tried using both. That was a week and a half ago, and while it isn’t ready, we couldn’t help but sample a bit… and so far so good!

In the meantime, we’ve been eating well down here on the trash farm. Dinners have consisted of chicken bakes, liver ‘n onions, baked potatoes, and the tastiest kohlrabi-squash  casserole in this history of kohlrabi-squash casseroles. More yummy dumpster meals to come, so hang tight!

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Invasion Never Tasted So Savory

Plan 9 From Chowder Space

The artichokes in tonight’s dinner look more like they had just crawled out of  a flying saucer than a dumpster, but nay, they come courtesy of the unwittingly wasteful darlings of VONS. Thanks for the space grub, morons! As with all soul-stealing pod aliens, large artichokes are best when steamed, with the tops chopped off to make sure that nobody gets poked by the spines. We didn’t have a steamer basket (though it probably would have heightened the Body Snatchers aura) so to avoid waterlogging the artichokes we used onion slices as stepping stones above the waterline on the floor of the pot. Served with a spiced margarine dip from the Henry’s dumpster. Eat it up, Scotty!

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Wine & Cheese

In 1985, Malcom Forbes payed $160,000 for a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite wine that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and hired journalists to brag about it in his eponymous magazine. We at Dumpster Aficionado would like to salute Mr. Forbes for his shrewd decision making — it is leaders such as him that make the political economics of capitalism the most rational and efficient of all possible manners of social organization. But those of us who are still waiting for our hard work and sound financial decisions to give way to some Horatio Alger-esque payoff and subsequent class ascension have not yet earned the right to sip such fine wine (though, granted, it is technically inedible now). In the meantime, if you’ll review your wine menu, might I suggest the…

Freeganeux 2010

Fruit wine is so easy to make it’s almost embarrassing. I don’t even use brewer’s yeast — the skin of fruit such as grapes and plums already contain the microorganisms necessary for fermentation naturally. We acquired the plums used for the wine we served last night (pictured above in our awesome Dr. Jekyll pitcher, also dumpstered, along with some cheese we found behind a nearby bakery) in the dumpster run I documented on the 5th, but we’ve also made grape wines since then. Wash the grimy fruit, but leave most of them unwashed, especially if you only have antibacterial soap — we WANT bacteria, remember? Mash up the grapes, either with your handy dandy food processor or Ethel-and-Lucy-style, and allow the brew to sit overnight and separate — you can scoop the pulp off of the top in the morning. We live in toasty Southern California, so that’s all we need to do, but if you live in chillier climes, you might want to add a bit of sugar. You don’t want to cap off the brew because CO2 needs to escape from the mix, but you can’t let air get in either, so it’s important to make a system where air can leave your container without allowing other air in. You can find special airlocks for pretty cheap online, but I prefer condoms or balloons in part because they’ll fit on a wider variety of mouth containers. Simply let the pressure out of the condom once a day, and it’ll be ready within the week. You’ll have to drink it pretty soon unless you take further preservation measures, but that’ll rarely be necessary; the fruit that you freegan on Saturday night should be ready to filter and serve by your party the following Friday night.

The Dumpster Aficionado Party Kit™

 

Stay classy, detritivores! Don’t drink and bike!

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Trash á la Mode

URBAN FORAGERS OF THE TRASHMASHER LEGION, I BRING YOU… DINNER!

Dinner came late for us last night, so we went with a recipe that can boast one of the best Ritz/Time quotients in the culinary world of the postapocalypstic bourgeoisie: the sauté. Spinach, onions, bell peppers, and potatoes from the Whole Foods dumpster (see Oct 5th’s post), turkey that we found in the refrigerator of a recently deceased woman (more on her later), some vegetarian hot dogs that have been in our freezer since we moved in (sorry if that was yours, beloved-but-absent roommates!)… haute cuisine, n’est-ce pas?

A few weeks ago, we dumpstered a packed of Emergen-C packets from a Bristol Farms dumpster — like we’ve said, the dumpsters of the ruling class are the freegan El Dorados — but alas, we ran out JUST as all of ourGrapefruit Juice

friends started getting sick. Fear not! Our cup runneth over, and we have an entire box full of oranges and grapefruit ripe for the juicing! In a city where tap water is known to be contaminated with sewage, an alternative to water at the dinner table is always welcome anyway. As anyone who has seen Soylent Green can attest, strawberries are one of the most potent symbols of scandalous excess and luxury in our cultural lexicon. Add a berry or two to the blend, and you’ve got yourself a drink that would make Charlton Heston’s mouth water.

 

 

On to desert! Doing anything with bananas other than simply eating them plain is a polite and efficient way of announcing to your peers that you are a better chef and (therefore) a better person than they are.  Here at Dumpster Aficionado, we are both of these things, and prefer to make this fact clear on a regular basis. Hence, our desert. Vegan ice cream is the only banana desert I know of that is simpler than fried bananas. Remove the nanners from the freezer, let them soak in some water for a minute before removing the peels, and toss them into a food processor. There’s no need to buy a fancy food processor — ours was only 50¢, as was our juice press.

 

Before

 

Add frozen strawberries, press the button, wait sixty seconds, and then…

 


After

 

Done. That’s seriously it. Truly, the world is a magical place. I like to serve it with a dash of cinnamon, but that’s your call.

Aaaaand it’s time to wash our dishes and talk about how awesome we are, but we’ll send you a new freegan dish shortly. Hang tight, and don’t forget your headlamp!

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Grocery Run!

We raided the Whole Foods dumpster up north!

Shop Locally, Dumpster Indiscriminately

If you live in an urban food desert (which we sort of do), and have access to a car that can handle a little slime (which we do), it might be worth your time to drive to a richer part of town; in our experience, there tends to be more food waste, and more variety. It’s unlikely that we would have found fresh mushrooms or heirloom tomatoes behind the liquor store a block away, let alone exotic finds such as kohlrabi or artichoke. Plus, that way you can circumvent competition with dumpster divers in your area — don’t believe the hype, yuppies aren’t dumpstering in droves (yet).

Here was our final tally:

Artichoke, okra, daikon, kohlrabi, zuccini, apples, oranges, red/green grapes, potatoes, shallots, red/white/spring onions, sweet potato, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, radishes, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peaches, nectarines, plums, serrano peppers, asparagus, pineapple, papaya, avocado, mango, plant food (granular and spray), live pepper plants, live geraniums, asian pears, red pears, king oyster mushrooms, broccoli, strawberry figs, button mushrooms, coconut (with milk!), and bananas!!!

The only issue is that we took more than we could handle! We gathered about eight boxes of produce, enough to fill the entire kitchen. This is a more common problem than you might expect. Luckily, there are a myriad of food storage techniques at your disposal. For instance…

1. Celebratory smoothies! Jamba Juice can take a hike; our smoothies are self-congratulatory meals made from the fruit that is extra ripe and delicious, and thus on the brink of spoilage. Celebrate the proverbial harvest in your kitchen the same night the proverbial scythe hits the proverbial stalk!

2. Preserves. Dumpster fruit is perfect for spreads, which is especially useful because freegan households tend to have a lot of extra bread on hand (expect a post exclusively on bread soon). For example, after smoothies, the first thing we did was slice up the tomatoes and boil them down into a tomato sauce base for bruschetta, pizza, etc. It not only prevents spoilage, but it saves space by reducing the volume as well!

3. Freezing. Most veggies and fruit can be frozen, though some take a bit of preparation, and because the cellulose breaks down, the texture is often pretty different after you thaw it all out (e.g. strawberries, which aren’t very tasty when thawed unless they’re baked into a pie or blended into a smoothie). Bananas are excellent candidates for the freezer, along with other fatty vegetables such as coconut, because they can be blended into a vegan sorbet dish, no extra ingredients necessary.  Other veggies need a bit of work. Eggplant, for instance, should be peeled, sliced into big chunks, and blanched for a few minutes before they are dried, bagged, and tossed in the freezer.

4. Pickling. This is a very different process from ‘normal’ preserving, but every bit as useful. I’ve pickled everything from okra to mango to watermelon rinds, and unlike most processing methods, pickling ADDS flavor and nutritional content rather than eliminating it. Keep an eye out for cookbooks on pickling, as they’re far more useful at inspiring creativity than one might intuitively predict. My personal favorites are The Joy of Pickling and Wild Fermentation. Both are excellent reference guides for beginners, but are so rich with history that fermentation wizards will likely be charmed.

5. Brewing — it’s simpler than you think. Wine, beer, and other spirits are commonly thought of as arcane, esoteric artforms inaccessible to curious amateurs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Try experimenting with the different fruits that you find — squish ‘em up (without washing all of them — most of the necessary bacteria is on the skin), put ‘em in a jug, cover with some cheesecloth or other fabric, and let it sit for a while, tasting it occasionally to check up on it’s progress. Many fruits (apples, grapes, pears, plums, etc) don’t even need any fancy brewers’ yeast to ferment. It’s a delicious and cheap alternative to those who don’t want to put up with the exploitation usually involved with cheap wine at the supermarket.

… and on and on and on! We’ll cover these preservation techniques and more as time passes, along with rudimentary recipes for the meals we make with the chow we rake in. In the meantime, start making a mental map of the supermarkets and restaurants in your area as you travel through town. Is their trash accessible from the outside? Is it locked? Is it easily seen by employees or passers-by? What kind of leftover food do you think you’d find there? Keep note of all of this info for the time being, and make sure to wave when you see us behind the Safeway!

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