dumpster diving

I came across the following in the letters section of the most recent issue of the Nation:

Ah, the all-American supermarket dumpster: our greatest symbol of plenty. Feelings of nostalgia well up whenever I overhear youths bragging about their latest haul. Genuine recyclers, dumpster-divers are rewarded with a cornucopia that is all the more enjoyable because of its illicit origins. 

I can remember dumpster diving only once in my life, and that was with my parents at a liquor store to get packing boxes for a move. The whole experience was humiliating and slightly traumatic, so I’ve never had any desire to repeat it.

While returning from New York recently on the Chinatown bus, I sat by a producer from NPR who told me that his roommates frequently dumpster dove, and that he had even made requests for certain items. He must have noticed the disgust on my face because he defensively added, “you know, expiration dates are only an indication of when foods should be sold. Most food will stay good well past their date of expiration.”

Yikes. Am I totally naive in thinking that this is not a widespread practice? And am I a priss for thinking that rummaging around in rotten food is revolting, not to mention imprudent?

Speaking of dumpster diving, did anyone hear this news?:

[Northwest Airlines] gave pink-slipped employees a tip sheet on how to cut living expenses. Among the suggestions: Rummage through other people’s garbage (Tip# 46: “Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash”).

Yeesh. Tip# 47: ward against potential food-borne bacteria by taking nips of scotch (but not single-malt, too pricey) after eating rummaged items.


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the oil we eat: following the food chain back to iraq

The Oil We Eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq

by Richard Manning, Harper’s Magazine – February 2004

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debbie does salad

Debbie Does Salad:The Food Network at the Frontiers of Pornography 

by Frederick Kaufman, Harper’s Magazine – October, 2005

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the cuba diet: what will you be eating when the revolution comes?

The Cuba Diet: What will you be eating when the revolution comes?

by Bill McKibben, Harper’s Magazine – April 2005.

“Cuba became an island. Not just a real island, surrounded by water, but something much rarer: an island outside the international economic system, a moon base whose supply ships had suddenly stopped coming.

People tried to improvise their ways around shortages.

But it’s hard to improvise food.

Cuba had learned to stop exporting sugar and instead started growing its own food again, growing it on small private farms and thousands of pocket-sized urban market gardens—and, lacking chemicals and fertilizers, much of that food became de facto organic. In so doing they have created what may be the world’s largest working model of a semi-sustainable agriculture, one that doesn’t rely nearly as heavily as the rest of the world does on oil, on chemicals, on shipping vast quantities of food back and forth.”

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horta ladolemono

This Greek recipe is for greens (horta) with lemon-olive oil dressing (lado lemono).

Use at least a 1/2 lb. of uncooked greens per person (kale, escarole, collared greens, arugula, swiss chard, mustard greens, frisee, curly endive, dandelion greens, etc).

1/2 cup (or a little < 1/2 c.) olive oil

1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt, black pepper

Wash the greens well, through several rinses. Bring a large pot of water 3/4 full to a boil. Be sure to remove the heavy rib sections and leaf stems from the leaves of the coarser greens (kale, collard greens, chard, etc). Add greens to the water, and parboil uncovered until tender (3-8 minutes, depending on type of greens). Meanwhile, stir together the ingredients for the dressing, adding salt and pepper to taste. Once tender, remove greens from heat, and drain well. If you want to eat the greens cool rather than room temp or warm, run the tender greens under cool water, bringing the post-parboil to a full stop – be sure to drain them a second time, or gently squeeze or press the water from the greens. Serve dressed with the ladolemono.


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shopska salata

This is a recipe for shopska salata – ‘shopska’ refers to residents of Sofia (Shoppi). I ate this every day I was in Bulgaria and it never got played out. Probably because I ate a different version of it everywhere I went, despite the fact that all shopska salata seems based on the same tomato-cucumber-feta trinity. Technically, the cheese is not feta but sirene. It is a white brine cow/sheep cheese for which feta is a fair substitute.

4 green onions, chopped
4 medium size tomatoes, cubed
1 cucumber, cubed
1 green pepper- seeded, roasted, peeled, and chopped
1 red pepper- seeded, roasted, peeled, and chopped
chopped parsley,
feta cheese, to be grated over salad
salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil

I have made this salad often without peppers, green onions, parsley, or vinegar. The printed recipe for shopska salad generally tends to include these things, but the shopskas I was fed did not always. The easiest way to deal with roasting the peppers seems to be cutting them into strips and baking them in the oven with olive oil and salt until they are soft and sweet, then adding them, peeled and chopped, to the salad once they have cooled to room temperature. Dress the cucumber, tomato, peppers, green onion, and parsley in salt and pepper, and lightly in vinegar and oil. The presentation for this salad involves piling the vegetable ingredients on a plate, and lastly, covering them with grated feta.  

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This Tunisian carrot salad calls for harissa. Many notes accompany the recipe below, but this dish is very easy – the many notes are just a by-product of cooking mzoura quite a few times, then permitting myself to think I know why it has not turned out as good some times as it has others.

1 lb. carrots, peeled and julienned

5 tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. harissa mixed with 6 tbs. water

1 tsp. ground caraway

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. salt

¼ c. wine vinegar

chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro optional garnish.

Bring a saucepan ¾ full of salted water to boil. Add carrots and boil, until tender, 5-8 minutes. Drain well. In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil.

Add the garlic, diluted harissa, caraway, cumin, salt and vinegar. Stir for 2 minutes.

Add carrots and cook them, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 min. Transfer to a serving dish, and serve at room temperature, with or without garnish.

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Filed under hors d'œuvre, middle-east, piquant