dumpster find of the week: table diving

Table diving is one of those scavengers’ tricks that divides the mice from the men, as they say. Or, as I say, the germa-phobes from the kind of survivalists who will survive the zombie apocalypse by eating bugs and roasted rats. Table diving, a term fairly common in the punk community, refers to the act of “dumpster diving” a table. That is put plainly: eating the leftovers people leave behind at restaurants before the bellperson manages to whisk them off to the trash. Though I have my doubts about eating bugs (I think my conditioning to find them hideous and disgusting may be irreversible), I’m happy to dine on the leftovers of strangers.

This week’s dumpster find is a tale of table diving from Montreal scavenger Nokizaru, whose dumpster story you might remember from a previous dumpster find of the week post. Here’s what he had to say of his table-diving exploits:

“It’s probably Friday night (but Saturday works too) and we’re all walking home through St Laurent (the street in Montreal with a ton of bars and clubs) when someone suggests ‘Let’s go table at Belle Pro!” which is of course responded to by a collective “yea I could go for some poutine!’

“But wait, Nokizaru, what is Belle Pro? What is poutine? Well I guess it’s time for some Quebec food-culture lessons: poutine is a dish that consists of french fries, gravy and cheese curds, it’s pretty delicious and probably not good for your body in the long term, and Belle Province (Belle Pro for short) is a fast food chain that sells poutine, but more importantly hosts a plethora of drunk, post-nightclub people who really like getting full before finishing all their food.

“Either way, we’ll end up walking to the Belle Pro and sitting, you know, without ordering anything at all, trying our best to not look like dirty skids. Depending on how adventurous/social/drunk some of us are we’ll either wait for people to leave without throwing out their plates or we’ll boldly ask people if they’re done and take their plates if they are. Of course there’s the ongoing silent battle with the busboy who feels it’s his job to clear tables faster than we can get to the left overs (and also gives us dirty looks) but we usually win that battle, since we’re like, professionals.

“The photo above is one of the end results of us tabling one night, maybe five of us got maybe six or seven plates of poutine before we were full and turned in for the night. ‘Twas a good night.”

And someday I hope journey to Montreal and dine on poutine until my seams burst. Because to date my own table diving efforts have been limited to pizza and beer. Which brings me to one last bit of scavenging terminology: the floater, also known as the half-empty beer that has been abandoned at the party or restaurant, just waiting for you to drink it. Waste not want not…

Have you ever table dived? Can you even imagine trying it? Or is the idea of a stranger’s leftovers too gross?

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Wednesday May 04th 2011, 2:15 pm 8 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,dumpster finds,food,freegan

8 Comments so far. Please leave a comment.

Ok..hopefully by now you know that I am thrifty and open-minded, and I try not to judge.
However…I could never bring myself to do this. With good friends I recently took their dinner leftovers home for a meal, becuase I thought it was silly to waste it. But strangers’ food and beer? Absolutely not, it grosses me out just reading about it. :)

Comment by Jane@ The Borrowed Abode 05.04.11 @ 5:06 pm

The very short time that I was at San Jose State U., there was a homeless man that would come into the student dining room and finish uneaten food left on the tables. He’d finish cigarettes, too. I remember being grossed out about it then, but just think it’s sad now.

What’s really sad is people leaving food; speaks volumes about the waste of food when so many are hungry. I guess it’s a good thing that someone can get some use from it, so there is no waste. But I think I’d have to be pretty damn hungry to do it myself.

Comment by paula 05.04.11 @ 10:09 pm

There’s been lots of times I’ve shared food or drinks with a stranger… sometimes they know it, because we’ve just met, sometimes it’s after they’ve left, what’s the difference?

If I see an unfinished beverage or fries that look good, I’m goin for it.

Comment by Frugal Vegan Mom 05.04.11 @ 11:58 pm

I know I couldn’t do this now, but when I was young, hungry and busing tables, there were no second thoughts about finishing the food on peoples plates before I carted the remains off to the kitchen. When you are hungry, you do what you have to to keep something in the belly. Aids and other viruses that seem so easy to catch off of other peoples saliva make me think this is an unsafe practise. But maybe if I was longing for some food, I wouldn’t care.

Comment by La Flor de Mal 05.05.11 @ 12:24 am

too risky, if someone’s gums are bleeding or if there’s a sharp needle left behind–yuck

moms have passed on bad things (HIV) to their babies by premasticating food

not worth the risk table diving for fun

Comment by tess 05.05.11 @ 1:45 am

I have to admit that I’m suprised more people aren’t intensely grossed out by this. High fives for open mindedness.

Some food for thought:

Table diving doesn’t generally involve eating food that has been premasticated (in regards to one of the things that Tess mentioned), or even touched. When you eat a meal at a restaurant, do you slobber all over your food before eating it? When you eat a slice of pizza, have you even touched the slices in the pie you might not be able to finish? How long do you wait before kissing someone you’ve just met but at romantically interested in?

Though of course there is risk inherent in this kind of thing, I’d reckon your eyes, ears, and nose can usually accurately tell you if the food is untouched or pre-slobbered. Imagining that someone might be leaving a sharp needle behind in their Thai leftovers sounds like the tales people used to tell about razorblades in Halloween apples–it might have happened once, but it’s not the norm.

If you’re really worried about being contaminated by a stranger’s spit, I wouldn’t recommend eating at restaurants at all. Ask your friends in the food industry: food gets spit in all the time. It gets dropped and put back on the plate. There are rats and sometimes they walk across all the bread in the bakery (true story, witnessed by the beard while buying a coffee in Koblenz). I don’t even want to tell you what someone once told me he used to do to the pizza dough where he worked.

Comment by clickclackgorilla 05.06.11 @ 10:49 am

We used to get intoxicated off the dregs of beer/spirits that people left behind (or while they nipped off to the bogs!).

Most food left on the plate is untouched, so it’s fine (apart from patrons who’ve passed out and end up face first in pie ‘n’ mash, ’cause they’re probably zombies).

Stay frugal!

Comment by shabbysquire 05.06.11 @ 5:12 pm

I’ve just started reading this blog and I think you’re wonderful. What you describe is the life I wanted when I was 16, but I was too scared and I did the normal thing. Only the normal thing didn’t work for me at 30, I’m finally getting back on track. I’ve never eaten abondoned resturant food before, but I have done my share of abandoned food. I’ve found that horrible marketing disasters are what often get thrown away. I ate Hickory smoked tofu for about year because the health food store kept throwing it away. It’s as horrible as it sounds. If you are ever passing through Trier drop me a line, I’m a US Airman stationed near there. My wife makes an amazing capachino and I could listen to your story for hours.

Comment by Israel Walker 05.12.11 @ 3:05 am




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