Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure

dazzling and interesting on a shoestring

How the destitute scrounge for food, the clean and dumpster-free way

Dumpster-diving is so ‘90’s.  I must confess to being a snob, and since leaving my early twenties behind me, I abhor the idea of eating something that might be garbage, even if it shouldn’t have ended up in the dumpster to begin with.  I’m picky—I don’t like my bread old our un-whole grain– and the barely expired processed stuff found on stinky, late-night forays into garbage receptacles doesn’t appeal even when it’s ‘fresh’.

This is why I much prefer Berry-Leaping— to coin a phrase that denotes its purpose and properly sets it as an antonym to the aforementioned sport.  Berry-Leaping can be done in daylight, with very little equipment and no after-smell.  Just find a berry bush, usually of the black/purple variety and get to picking.  I have used a small colander, a blue tin bucket—a-la-Blueberries for Sal — a re-used green plastic berry basket or on the spur of the moment, a large napkin.  All of these work just fine.
July and August are the perfect time to help yourself to wild blackberries.  Most bushes are so wild and tangled that they are far more bramble than berry, but since no one has taken the time to prune and trim, no one’s laid claim on the fruits of labor, either.  My advice is to taste on first—often the small, tightly packed ones are a bit sour, so choose carefully.
I’ve harvested the wild bushes in the no-man’s-land territory by the creek in my parent’s housing development (as well as finding some tart and lovely little plums, pictured above), and even the bushes that line the parking lot next to the gym where I teach.  I just pulled my car up right below them, climbed (barefoot) onto the hood and plucked everything within reach—plenty for breakfast.
I have a well-known and talented predecessor in this field (pun intended)– Alice Waters (who shares my birthday, dear Taurean Lady) used to harvest raspberries from a local vine and use them in recipes at Chez Panisse.  For more about how she supports the community and the future, not to mention local farmers and local wild berry bushes, check out The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea .

Now that you’ve picked those berries, what to do with them– eat them of course, and if you’ve got a ton, you can live by the old saying– ‘You can make a cobbler out of anything.’  Just throw the berries in the bottom of a loaf pan, pie plate, brownie pan or corningware and add the following on top:
Cobbler Topping
1 cup oats
3/4 flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter (cut into small pieces) OR 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance (for the vegan version)
Mix it all up, until the butter is in tiny, cornmeal-consistency pieces, or the Earth Balance has moistened everything.
Scatter all this over your berries (or peaches, or apples, or apples and cranberries, apricots, plums, pears, cherries–  you get the idea.  If it makes a pie, it makes a cobbler, and you don’t have to make and roll the darn dough.)
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until you can’t bear to smell it and not eat it, and all the juices are bubbly.  Let it cool for 10 minutes, eat as is or top with vanilla ice cream (dairy or non-dairy, depending) and feel a lil’ bit of heaven.
There’s a bounty out there for the picking—grab a bucket and a buddy and reap the harvest!  Then tell me where you found your wild berries.
Ciao and chow,
Ms. D


2 responses to “How the destitute scrounge for food, the clean and dumpster-free way

  1. Susan Child August 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Love it. There is a yellow plum tree hanging over the fence and shading the side walk a block from my home. I stop and harvest all season long. Do I feel a little silly? Yes! Do love sun ripe plums enough to not care? YES!

    My older neighborhood has a lot of fruit trees, and yet it seem the owners of the trees never actual harvest their fruit. ???

    • lifestyles of the destitute and obscure August 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      You lucky girl! We should get together and wander the neighborhood harvesting. I know what you mean about harvesting, too. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a thief, but if no one’s picking it or eating it, why should it go to waste? Better to go to my waist. 😉 Thanks for chiming in! Hugs, Moi

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