Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Free Meal

Last night I made a meal for the house ("house" is the word we use to refer to the LA Catholic Worker Community) entirely from dumpstered food. Well, make that almost entirely. I think the only not-freegan  ingredients were the garlic and salt. The rosemary and arugula were freegan, since they were grown in a friend's garden, but were also not dumpstered. Even the butter was rescued.

I cooked up a seasoned lamb's leg from New Zealand and talapia fillets (fish) with sides of golden potatoes, steamed broccoli and rainbow chard with butter garlic sauce. There was a dumpster fruit salad for dessert.

I do wish I had taken pictures of that.

I also wish I wouldn't forget the things I was going to blog about. :P for next time, I guess.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lesson of the Day

Today was a beautiful day down at the Hippie Kitchen, after almost a solid week of heavy rain. The sun was out this morning (as it still is) and people's spirits were much higher in response.

I really enjoy what we call "Table Wiping Duty", which is a job that we do during serving hours. It involves walking around the serving area (a large urban garden with picnic tables) with a rag or broom to give the pretext of working, but is mostly about keeping order and socializing with the guests. You really can learn a lot from the people who eat at our soup kitchen. It's a mix of people who live on the streets and residents of the "SROs" (single room occupancy hotels, used as low income housing). All are on the "bottom end" of the economic system for a slew of reasons.

Today I was a "table wiper" and I learned a lesson from a friend of ours whose name is Kin. I was just chatting away with him about things in my life and he gave me a heavy dose of optimism. "Don't think of things as a 'test'," he told me, "think of it as "enhancement". This man is always smiling, joking. Here he is, a resisdent of an SRO in the "homeless capital of the US" (Skid Row, LA), without much money, eating at a soup kitchen and teaching me about optimism! To me, that is amazing and beautiful. Material circumstances do not dictate your attitude at all.

(pictues: from the catholic worker photo page. Top, Katie wiping tables. Bottom, Marie watering the serving garden)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Tally

Here's a tally of the items we found in Tuesday night's haul that I pictured here.

I was able to make two lovely cheesecakes yesterday, thanks to all the cream cheese. Believe it or not, most of the stuff we brought home has been consumed by the household in these two days.

The tapioca pudding was thrown out because one of the tubs in the case had busted. The other 11 were just fine, and quite tasty.

11 16oz tubs Tapioca pudding (which does not expire until Feb 6)
10 1qt jugs 100% fresh orange juice
4 15.2 oz jugs fresh orange juice
5 1 qt strawberry lemonade
6 16 oz jugs heavy cream
3 12 oz bottles Guinness Draught
13 12 oz tubs soft lite cream cheese
1 32 oz tub maple yogurt
3 12 oz chicken salad
1 8oz tub white mushrooms
2 loaves sprouted grains bread
1 pork chops (priced $6.89 for 1.15 lbs)
2 packs prepared beef brisket
3 packs prepared grilled, seasoned chicken
1 12 oz pack cooked salmon
1 16 oz pack roast turkey breast
1 7oz pack veggie rolls
15  lemons
8  zuccini
3 color bell pepper
1 melon
5 lbs sweet potatoes (estimated)
2 vine ripe tomatoes

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photo of the Day

Here's the photo of last night's haul (more about it later). Take note of the bottle of Guinness in the front. That was one of three that we found, tossed because it was leaking slightly from the top. It was still a tasty beer. Oh yeah.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A "Prayer Request" or Two

There are many people who need our positive thoughts, or prayers (whichever term you prefer). My evangelical background is still in me deep down and so is prayer.

In particular need of prayer in my life right now is a friend, only 42 years old, who had a brain anuerism/stroke last Tuesday and has had several surgeries to counter it. She is still in ICU and her partner also needs mental/spiritual support.

Also, never lose mental sight of those in Haiti and those here in our very city of LA who will be affected by the heavy storms coming our way. I was down at the Hippie Kitchen today and so was reminded of the people who have no place to go when the rain and wind start their bickering. Tarps and disposable ponchos only do so much. I often feel like we're just a band-aid, and an ineffective one at that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In Passing

I only have a couple of moments in passing before I play a game with some friends, but I would like to share about a recent haul. It was that good.

One of our new favorite spots requires crawling under a fence where there is a small gap between it and the concrete driveway. The effort is always worth it though, yielding a reward of fresh produce and often dairy. A few nights ago, Eric and I, with a few friends, hit it up and came home with what would probably be a couple hundred dollars worth of food. The loot included a case of goat milk (within date and delicious), a case of chocolate chips and many pounds of potatoes and other produce. My apologies for the lack of pictures.

There will always be more to share later, both in words and food.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freegan vs Material Girl Video

I'm online for a moment, so I thought I should post, after yesterday's mention of "resolution" to post more. Today I'll share a freegan video that you all may enjoy. Follow the "related video" links to see the other 3 parts of the episode.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Correction and Confession

Ok, so January has turned out to be less of a "slump" than I had hoped, as evidenced by my lack of posting. One of my "resolutions" (not specifically aligned with New Year's) was to keep up my blog better than I have been. :) Who can actually do all the things they wish they would really do? Some people like to think that I do just go for whatever I wish to in life, but I find myself to be a little disappointing sometimes. I may live alternatively like I want to, but there is so much about how I do things personally that I would like to change.

That leads me to a recent article published about me on the blog of an international journalism student in the UK. She paints a very rosy, "pedestalizing" picture of me and of Freeganism. I don't know how she got the idea that Freegans don't use money, or at least that I don't use money. It does seem to be a common misconception. Some freegans have reached that point in their application of the freegan ideals, and I aspire to be that strong. In the community I live in, however, members of the house receive a $15/week stipend, which doesn't seem like much to some people. But when your needs are provided for just by definition of living communally (mutual giving and sharing of our time and resources includes food and a space in the huge house the 20 of us share), any extra money is just that - extra. And when you have extra money in your pocket, you're probably going to end up spending it, even if your ideals are against the spending of money on yourself. Well, that's how I have a cellphone and go out drinking occasionally (now you know).

There are valid arguements in favor of using money in order to do good. I do happen to agree with that, as long as the money comes from a valid source. I mean, that's how the Catholic Worker and the JCs operate at all. In order to do humanitarian or educational work, there is some level of compromise with the system that goes on. It's rather unfortunate and drives me crazy, but it's true. I don't know that one could live entirely on the outside of the economy and still provide for needs on the large scale that the CW does. However, they do what they can to minimize thier involvement with the structures of power, such as not taking any money from the governments to fund their work. The LACW is not a 501(c)3 tax-exempt cooperation and doesn't ever want to be. It means a little inconvience for us and our donors sometimes, but it's a way to express the beliefs of the group.

From's "philosophy" page: Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.

And even if I did not spend my stipend and lived completely without using money, it would not be that great of a feat. I get my food for free quite easily (if not from the dumpsters, then from the shared donated food we eat at the house), have clothes given to me by friends and my younger sisters and have a free place to stay, in return for my time doing something I want to do anyway. It seems like much too easy a life. Sigh.

EDIT: another correction to another common misconception - the community (Los Angeles Catholic Worker) is not a freegan organization, nor do any members besides myself claim to be freegan. I know other freegans just like me, though, who live in communities of alternative lifestyles and still use money, hesistantly or not. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Joy and Freegan Fun

The Christmas season has come and gone, taking its bustle and cheesy music along with it. We're now entering the quiet month of January and it's a welcome slump for me. The holidays were busy, loud and fun, but it's time to rest.

My parents did eventually video chat with me and apologized profusely for missing the first appointment in favor of shopping. I got a large box of gifts in the mail with a note from my mother: "In honor of your [freegan] beliefs, we did not wrap your presents". Sweet, but misguided. Many of the gifts had been bought - from Wal-Mart! I would have rather had handmade or recycled presents wrapped in new paper than tissue-wrapped gifts brand-new from a major corporation that is crushing our planet and its people. However, I can appreciate the sentiment and enjoy the gifts.

During the week after Christmas, my younger sister Clara visited me. She took the 20 hour greyhound trip for her first visit to LA. I try to remember what my first impressions of Los Angeles were after living in a rural Oregon town for most of my life, like her. She really enjoyed herself. I did my best to give her a good time, LA-alternative style. The first thing we took her to do, of course, was dumpster dive (Eric, me and Clara, posing with our rescued food). It was far from her first dip in freegan practices, but the biggest haul she had ever experienced. Through the week we went to the beach (in December: a first for these Oregonians!), visited Hollywood, rode the Rose parade route on New Year's eve and worked in the Hippie Kitchen Clinic.

It was very nice having her here to experience my life first hand. I wonder how my lifestyle affects my siblings, who are all in the stages of decision-making/development (between the ages of 16-18). Clara wants to study languages and travel, but is pretty set on a "normal", family centered life as an adult. Of course, that's how I felt when I was 17, too. :)

at right: Clara, me and Eric's daughter, Celina
more fun photos here


"I'm a writer!"
And she laughs at the tinge of irony,
eyes alive and laughing too.
We all have our moments,
those times when discovery pounces on us like a fuzzy kitten,
to land in our laps.
And we receive with a joyful smile,
to cuddle with the truth as it purrs knowledge.
"Know thyself".