Today I had the best, and only, warm, home-cooked meal since I’ve been travelling – and it came out of a dumpster. As part of Black Rose, an anarchist’s book shop and gallery, the People’s kitchen is a place to communally cook dumpster found food. ‘Dumpstering’ and cooking are done in turns and those having done neither will do the washing up.
When I came in a group of about 6 people were preparing dinner. There was scooping-out of papayas, pealing of potatoes, ripping of lettuce, boiling of rice and whisking of batter. The result was a super healthy dinner consisting of rice, ratatouille, vegetable couscous, cabbage and onion stir fry, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, boiled potatoes and fresh salad with tomato and cucumber. Dessert was pancakes with warm pear compote. And the portions of all of the above were enough to satisfy the 12 people that arrived through out dinner.
Most people at the People’s Kitchen live in squats and hardly spend money on food. If the dumpsters won’t get them dinner a ten finger discount will. Dumpstering is done at night time when stores and restaurants are shut and have gotten rid of “gone-off” food for the day. Tricks and techniques must be learnt and applied since security guards, padlocks and bolts are making life hard for the dumpster dependent. Anything can be found: basics like rice and pasta, dairy products, baked goods and vegetables and fruits in masses. It’s not only disgusting how much perfectly edible food gets thrown out but how difficult some stores are trying to make it for others to have the food that they can, or won’t, sell no longer. If you don’t want it why can’t someone else have it?
The dumpster lifestyle also includes table-diving. Tables, for example at university cafeterias, are carefully observed then once a person leaves leaving half eaten food behind you dive in and devour that shit. Biggest enemy here are fast moving janitors that turn your lunch into garbage before you can get there. Cafeteria dumpster are also meant to be a gold mine so if the cafeteria’s inside ain’t filling you up, head outside.