Local eating in Brooklyn has been taken to a whole new level with the advent of people foraging for their meals on the city streets. And while that might conjure up images of people scavenging for wild garlic growing in the cracks of sidewalks or scouting blackberry brambles clustered in Prospect Park, that is not what Brooklyn foraging is really all about.
What food foraging in NYC is all about in the year 2012 is pawing through bags of garbage left on the streets by grocery stores at the end of the day.
The Wall Street Journal investigated and joined in on the activities of New York City's freegans—"folks who bypass the evil capitalist system by living off waste"—as they hunted for food among the city's trash bags. The intrepid WSJ columnist tagged along on freegan adventures in the East Village and Carroll Gardens, picking up not only free quinoa and arugula, but also a lot of urban scavenging advice. Some of the tips dispensed by more experienced foragers include: "Foraging hours are 8 to 10 p.m., after the stores close but before the garbage trucks arrive. Chain markets, which overstock to create an aura of abundance, have the best trash. Foraging etiquette, meanwhile, frowns on tearing into the bags. You tie and untie, leaving the trash as you found it."
While balanced meals were easy enough to put together, accompanied by the thrilling fact that they were free(!), the life of a freegan might not be for everyone. It is fascinating to me that in a world of ever-present hand sanitizer and strange single-celled organisms that like nothing more than to eat human BRAINS, people are totally cool with getting their food out of garbage bags thrown out onto Court Street. But I guess, any way to avoid the evils of capitalism, right? Evil!
Although the WSJ reporter ultimately decided that she would rather just pay for her food than hunt around bags of trash, she did make note of the delightful encounters that she had with her fellow foragers. Which, if you ask me, is the main reason to partake in such an activity. Why would you want to ever miss the possibility of an exchange like this?
"While rummaging through the Key Food garbage on Atlantic Avenue, I was approached by a man pushing a granny cart and smoking a cigarette. 'There's nothing good in there,' he said. 'I can tell by looking.'
"'Really?' I was fascinated. 'How can you tell?'
"He gave me a sharp glance that told me exactly how stupid I am. 'By looking!' he said. 'That's how!'"
By looking! That's how.
I love that.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen