I was watching the TV show “Portlandia” today, and there was one bit where they were mocking freegans – people who dumpster-dive and get stuff out of the trash and use it, including food.
I was reminded of the time I ate food from a dumpster.
Now before you get all grossed out, know that I did it unknowingly, and I couldn’t tell the difference.
So here’s what happened: I was hanging out with a bunch of random people in Santa Cruz, California at a house party. The conversation was peppered with extremist, radical thoughts, conspiracy theories, and general distrust of the government. Several of the people at the party refused to have even their picture taken, as they were afraid of the government tracking them down. I was viewed with distrust since I was the only one there who was slightly more conservative and I “worked for the Man” as a law clerk at the Department of Justice, and “sold out to the system” since I was in law school. I am very much a liberal from the general population’s standpoint, however. But in this crowd, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Although I was wearing a tank top and jeans, I might as well have been wearing a polo shirt and khakis with a sweater tied around my shoulders, amidst a sea of dreadlocks and army pants.
Unknown to me, several of the local street kids were hanging out at the party. We had been drinking and hanging out and having a good time. One of the guys left on his bicycle to get more alcohol. He returned bearing a handle of vodka and a bag full of donuts. I remember thinking how thoughtful that was that he picked up some food for the party. Although it was almost 2 am, I knew that there were 24 hour donut shops nearby, so it didn’t seem out of place to me to bring them.
Being a little bit tipsy, I dug into the donuts. They were a little bit smooshed, but I figured that he must have dropped them while on his bike. I picked out a chocolate one with pink sprinkles. The conversation turned to how the guy who brought the donuts was looking for a place to stay for a couple days. Then I realized that he was homeless. It still didn’t occur to me yet that anything was amiss. Ah, how young and naive I was.
Then the guy started talking about how he found some really great rolls from the bakery in the trash for Thanksgiving last year and brought them to his family. I was on my second donut at that point. An old-fashioned glazed. Mid-chew, it dawned on me that these donuts probably came from a dumpster too.
I turned to my friend, the half eaten donut suddenly hard to swallow. “Wait, did I just eat food from a dumpster?”
She started laughing, slightly horrified herself. “Don’t freak out. I think you did.”
The entire room broke out in laughter.
“Look at her! She’s a pampered pet!”
“She’s never had dumpster food before! She’s turning bright red!”
“Welcome to how the other half lives, sweetie!”
“What a Princess! Too good for free food, huh?”
I will admit, I was mortified. I thought, this is NOT normal to eat dumpster food. I was outraged that no one warned me. And I was embarrassed that I clearly did not fit in to that crowd. But I calmed down. I mean, there was nothing wrong per se, with the donuts. They had been tied up in a plastic bag. It wasn’t like they were loose in garbage. Maybe I was being snobby. I mean, I’ve never been hungry in my life. I’ve always had a roof over my head, and food on the table. Half the people at that party weren’t so lucky. And a very large percentage of the world’s population would probably jump at day-old donuts, no matter where they came from.
So now, after that experience, as I sip my Starbucks and plan my low-carb diet for the week, I am just left with some upper-class guilt at my reaction to dumpster food.
But damn if those weren’t good donuts.