Thursday, June 19, 2008


Sometimes the workers of cafes take special care to destroy left over food; to frustrate attempts to live off this waste; to dissuade you from opening their bin-bags. They retrace their steps: unwrap the humus wraps, open the sandwich packaging, empty the sealed salad trays. After spending much time preparing these food items, they now destroy them, or rather, create a big pile of couscous, bread, and chopped salad.

Whether this is a company policy or a local initiative of the branch boss - you do not know. You suspect the reason is "health and safety": these corporations fear that someone could sue them for catching some disease from eating their leftover sandwiches (one hour out of date, one hour out of the fridge). A number of people have suggested this but there could also be other reasons - some people leaving a mess when digging for food, or perhaps some basic spite against freeloaders.

Other people would perhaps call in the branch to enquire, and ask the workers: why are you doing this? Were you told to? Do you mind leaving it for people who eat it? - the workers are after all only workers, not corporate pawns, but this is not your style. There is the cafe in its working hours, where you would not venture by; and there is the closed cafe after seven, where you search for food. The two worlds cannot meet.

Today, again, you encounter this depressing sight of a heap of discarded food. But this is such an infuriating sight that it makes your leisurely adventure into a mission. It is simply wrong, to throw away so much food, but making it inaccessible is criminal. And so you dig in. There must be something you can find. And of course, there is: with so much packaging and wrapping it is simply impossible for the poor employees (probably dying to go home) to unpack each and every salad. You take them out, one by one: two ham and cheese baguettes; a hummus wrap; a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice; a small tub of yogurt with honey and forest fruits; two sandwiches with free-range chicken; two small side salads, one of green beans and the other of courgette and feta cheese. All had to be shaken a bit from couscous, but still in their wrappings, still ready to be eaten. You look over your bounty with pride; saved from the landfill, despite everything. Food scavenging is such an empowering experience. On the way back to college, you look at your reflection at the bank windows, and notice that, for the first time today, you smile.

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