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Freegans Frustrated
March 18, 2014 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Remember The Gleaners Kitchen? If you were looking forward to a free meal, there's some bad news.
posted by backseatpilot (88 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is my surprised face ?

Trying to think of the analysis/stretch to the borrow/loan culture that co-exists with the dumpster dive types - everything can't be free or borrowed, exactly. Someone has to pay.
posted by k5.user at 8:34 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I have personally known experienced, hard-working, hardened people wipe out in the restaurant business. It is brutal. Unless you are doing a lunch truck the overhead is sky high. Even the most skilled are at the mercy of public taste. No thanks.
posted by bukvich at 8:39 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


“If I’d spoken to them, they would have said no,” Maximus says. “That’s why I didn’t.”

And that, in a nutshell, is why this plan was doomed to failure from conception.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:41 AM on March 18 [18 favorites]


The main problem was that they weren’t on the lease, but tensions also grew with the house’s other residents when it became clear they intended to serve food out of the basement. They also never ran the plan by the landlord or property manager. “If I’d spoken to them, they would have said no,” Maximus says. “That’s why I didn’t.”

From that, it sounds like they would have run into problems no matter what kind of restaurant they were planning on running.
posted by cjelli at 8:42 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Huh. My reaction to this is making me feel, like, uncomfortably conservative.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:44 AM on March 18 [12 favorites]


This is mainly a story of enthusiasm overstepping ability.

It's absolutely possible to succeed with an extremely cheap, volunteer-run quasi-restaraunts. There's a few I know of here in Toronto; the one I know best is Harvest Noon, which has been running for two years. It doesn't make massive profits, but instead serves healthy vegan food and provides a pretty great event space.

It's been interesting seeing the compromises they've been coming to over their couple years of work, too. Initially they were entirely volunteer staffed, but I believe they have a few actual employees now. Plan ahead, keep your goals in mind, and be ready to compromise a bit in order to meet those goals as best as you can, and you'll do fine....
posted by kaibutsu at 8:44 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Random thoughts:

1. OF COURSE his name is Maximus, he has curly hair/dreads and is wearing a Guatamalan poncho. I'm willing to guess that he also smells like garlic, BO, weed and patchulli.

2. Now all he can do is go back home to Greenwich, CT.

3. He gets free groceries and free money and he's surprised when he's not allowed to hand out free crash pads and free dumpster food. "You mean other people have rights and there are laws and codes and stuff. Screw The Man."

4. I wonder if it hurt when he had his foreskin sewn back on.

5. "I tried this one thing and now I'm all out of ideas."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:46 AM on March 18 [13 favorites]


It's all too easy to point out the folly of idealistic youth, but the underlying issues they raised are still valid. The project was an attempt to address the staggering amount of waste we tolerate in our food systems, simply because it's invisibly whisked away into landfills. Just because one guy in a poncho didn't manage to pull off his Kickstarter venture plan doesn't invalidate that.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:46 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


It's tricky to negotiate this kind of thing. Doing it out of a private house really isn't a great idea. I know from my social circles that you can run the occasional (perhaps monthly or even biweekly) free meal for ~30 out of a private house without any real problems, but once you start getting substantially larger numbers or substantially more frequent meals, you end up drawing unwanted attention.

I wonder if he contacted organizations that do this stuff regularly on a similar scale (by which I mean anarchist centers and other radical projects - there's no sense in asking a huge professional food distribution organization how to run something tiny out of a small kitchen) - there are Catholic Worker houses and radical community spaces that do this stuff.

An option that has worked well around here for weekly meals has been partnering with left churches with industrial kitchens - then you have a good-sized space, which makes everything much easier. You also don't have accessibility concerns, and it's much easier for people outside of Your Immediate Social Circle to walk into a church basement than to feel comfortable walking up to someone's house.

I have to wonder whether it might not have been better to start small - one meal a week, or a baked-breakfast-goods distribution.

Making a big free meal is work, you don't know until you've done it. It's fun - if I could make and serve free meals every day for a smaller organization (so that it wasn't just "giant cauldrons of soup") for a living wage, I would absolutely do it. But you are tired when you've finished cleaning up. I have to wonder whether folks really understood how hard it was going to be even if it had gotten off the ground.
posted by Frowner at 8:49 AM on March 18 [18 favorites]


I don't think they answered the question of whether or not there really is enough edible food in dumpsters to support the idea. Like if it was another kid who had more of shit together would have been able to pull it off.
posted by bleep at 8:54 AM on March 18


Also I think it's kind of a curse to have a particular kind of youthful charisma - you get too much positive feedback from easily-impressed peers (because you have a lot of ideas and enthusiasm) and this makes it much harder for you to doubt yourself or seek mentoring from older folks.

As to Maximus-style dudes, I've known a variety of them - a few have ended up as merely older versions of their frustrating young selves; some have parlayed the charisma into respectability-politics; some have just grown up and become perfectly solid activists who use their charisma and early experiences effectively.
posted by Frowner at 8:55 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


OTOH we still need more food banks/shelves
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on March 18


[The super-sneery comments are not really helping a good discussion get going here, please reconsider whether that is the type of thread you want to have.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Right, Frowner; Food Not Bombs has effectively been doing this in a super-distributed way for years...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:00 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


There are reasons zoning laws exist; there was a house in Ann Arbor, MI that served as a community artisanal breakfast joint for a few years. But once word got out, the neighborhood filled up with a bunch of impatient hipsters who ignored stop signs, no parking signs and--the final straw--kids trying to walk to school in the morning.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:04 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


It's an interesting story to me partly because it happened right in my neighborhood, but also as someone who is naturally a very careful planner of all things this sort of cavalier management style is the kind of thing that gives me night sweats. And then to go on Kickstarter and ask for money is sort of the icing on the cake.

It seems like the sort of Underpants Gnome style of idea generation that makes a lot of other Kickstarter ideas fail, that sort of "well, we'll just call up China and order a thousand of these widgets" idealism that suddenly turns into months of work and mountains of forms and now it's two years past your delivery date and your backers are wondering why they bothered. Their whole plan seemed to be that they would continue to do what they were doing (dumpster diving behind Trader Joe's), something would happen, and then the greater Boston homeless population magically gets fed.

They never seemed to seek any sort of outside help from people knowledgeable about feeding large groups of people, homelessness outreach, or supply chain management (or legal advice, or health codes, or...) but I suppose that would go against the counter-culture vibe they were trying to establish.

"They didn't think this through" is a bit of an understatement, I think. I mean, ignoring the subletting subterfuge, this line - Diners, as it turns out, would have had to crouch down and squeeze into a red, hobbit-sized door underneath the back porch to get into the dining room in the basement. - is what stuck out at me as the "they don't get it" high point of the story.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:12 AM on March 18 [14 favorites]


Damn, Ruthless Bunny, remind me not to piss you off!

But yeah, there seems to be a sense around kickstarter et al - even after so many high profile disasters - that the money will solve everything and once a project hits its goal, it's all a done deal. Sometimes people react with a sense of betrayal when something doesn't work, assuming the project people must have deliberately ripped them off.

But for every scammy huckster out there, I'd bet there are half a dozen like this guy, completely well-intentioned but they've just gotten in over their heads. They get how to do/make some thing X in a petri dish, but have no idea how to deal with all the stuff immediately around that thing that's needed to make it a real thing in the real world. And it's precisely the resources crowdfunding can provide that enable them to push out of their comfort zone into areas where they just don't know what they're doing anymore.
posted by Naberius at 9:17 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


They never seemed to seek any sort of outside help from people knowledgeable about feeding large groups of people, homelessness outreach, or supply chain management (or legal advice, or health codes, or...) but I suppose that would go against the counter-culture vibe they were trying to establish.

The thing is, I know a bunch of perfectly respectable social work types who either were once young and punk rock or who for some other reason have counter-cultural connections...I think that's pretty common. It's not at all impossible to get some good advice (often off-the-record, since even if you're doing a Very Responsible Counter Culture Project you're usually not totally in legal compliance) from people who have real, long-term knowledge of a situation. If you're young, I think it's really difficult to separate "I am suggesting that you not do this quasi-legal thing because it will be a disaster, while I am winking at that quasi-legal thing because it is actually pretty much a rubber stamp" advice from "you must conform to all our rules because we are The Man" advice.

I think that's also a difficult aspect of being a college student - you can easily only know college student activist circles, instead of the broader social circles where someone would say "oh, why don't you call Sally Lawyer and Joe Homeless Advocate, they might have some suggestions".
posted by Frowner at 9:19 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Seems like maybe the ethos overwhelmed the core idea, which may or may not be solid but was at least interesting. If the group had been willing to find a more legit location, this would be a different story. But maybe they really wanted it all to be cobbled together and unauthorized because that better fit their sense of what the project was about. And that's when hobbit doors and illegal sublets submarined the whole thing.
posted by that's candlepin at 9:19 AM on March 18


“There were logistics I should have figured out,” he says. (Logistics like if you’re “… preparing food from the dumpster in a non-inspected kitchen space, you will eventually run into trouble with the law,” as one longtime diver would later put it.)

Indeed. This venture was doomed from the get-go and thank goodness.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:20 AM on March 18


I've gone past saying "I told you so" to full-on weary adult condescension. Let's celebrate the beauty of impetuous youth, the nerdy but charismatic founder who does not yet know the value of his own time. (But has learned the value of a good marketing video.)

Food not Bombs is an organization that's actually succeeding in guerilla-style feeding people in need.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I was reading the article (I vaguely heard about the kickstarter at the time and remember thinking "well, this doesn't sound very well thought out"), and thinking "Why are you not talking to 'food not bombs' at all?"
posted by rmd1023 at 9:24 AM on March 18


backseatpilot: They never seemed to seek any sort of outside help from people knowledgeable about feeding large groups of people, homelessness outreach,

Did they do outreach to the homeless? I didn't see mention of that in the Boston Magazine piece.

One problem I have with some recent activist innovations is that, while they may contain legitimately creative and potentially viable potential, they seem to often not see value in reaching out to and possibly trying to coordinate with others who have been active in the same or similar issue areas.

For example, feeding people who can't afford food is not a new idea, and it's likely that others with experience could have provided insight into legal, logistical and socio-cultural factors.

Innovation is good. Innovation is necessary. Innovation out of thin air that is not informed by history is probably a fool's errand.

On preview: kind of what Frowner said.
posted by univac at 9:24 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


"Why are you not talking to 'food not bombs' at all?"

One of the reasons FNB is so effective is that they have this low profile thing going on (in areas where they haven't run afoul of local laws/cops and gotten publicity) so the service they do actually works most of the time and doesn't have a whole lot of cool-factor usually. Sometimes I worry a little about them getting too popular and becoming less effective.
posted by jessamyn at 9:27 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


In Minneapolis, both the North Country Food Alliance and Sisters Camelot* distribute donated food (not precisely dumpstered, but it would have gone in the dumpster if it weren't donated - it's pre-dumpstered, if you will) and serve community meals pretty regularly. Both are sometimes a bit punks-feeding-punks, IME, but not nearly as much so as you'd expect - they really do meet their mission fairly well most of the time. That is, there is enough unneeded food to serve relatively large-scale meals and distribute food regularly, and that's just from the places that want to donate it - it's not as though every cafe and store in town is handing out their surplus to Sisters Camelot.
posted by Frowner at 9:27 AM on March 18


But for every scammy huckster out there, I'd bet there are half a dozen like this guy, completely well-intentioned but they've just gotten in over their heads.

Actually, I'm starting to perceive that successful grifters are pious frauds.
posted by fatbird at 9:27 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Addendum to my last comment: anyone hoping to embark on a radical, guerrilla, illegal social aid program would do well to sit down with any of the several functioning needle-exchange programs around the US, because that's exactly how they started. I suspect the difference is that they paired their black market social assistance with media outreach and policy advocacy, and saw their efforts more as civil disobedience than a TED Talk audition.
posted by univac at 9:29 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


It occurs to me that between viral videos and crowdfunding sites, what would've been a "known to a few dozen" kind of flop is now a "forever linked to your name in google" flop. I mean, well-intentioned and poorly-planned schemes like this are not uncommon, but it's kind of embarrassing for the participants now how well-publicized they can be. Particularly when it ties into a particularly schadenfreudey narrative, because the internet sure does love its schadenfreude.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:30 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


You know, it really is too easy to bag on this, because it has been done previously, in pretty much the exact, same goofy way. The difference is that The Diggers actually knew how to be anarchists.

It's folly to think that scavenging for food out of the garbage, and then distributing it, for free or for profit, won't eventually result in some kind of food borne illness. Our food safety laws are strict because we like to be able to actually trace an illness to an actual something, rather than, "Oh, that guy who serves soup out of the back of his Mom's Volvo."

That said, it would be good if there were some way of gathering food that was about to be pitched and re-using it, but for now it can only be on an individual scale and not in a restaurant setting.

I don't fault Maximus for his ideals, but I do fault him for not thinking the thing through, figuring out a way around the codes and laws and for not doing ANY kind of research on how it's been done in the past.

Ideals are great, but if you don't have logistics or common sense to back them up, you ineveitably get cluster fucks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:41 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


They never seemed to seek any sort of outside help from people knowledgeable about feeding large groups of people, homelessness outreach, or supply chain management (or legal advice, or health codes, or...) but I suppose that would go against the counter-culture vibe they were trying to establish.

One wonders if some deliberate obtuseness was in play: I doubt anybody knowlegeable in most of those areas would have thought this was a good idea.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:43 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah sorry I have zero sympathy for people taking food from unsterile, non-food-safe dumpsters, with who knows what having been thrown in on top, and feeding it to others.

Nations have food safety laws for a reason.

Also, what the actual hell does this mean?

4. I wonder if it hurt when he had his foreskin sewn back on.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:55 AM on March 18


Also, not that I'm anywhere near an anarchist, but I would think rule #1 of conducting this sort of mission would be "if you're going to do something quasi-legal, don't piss off your neighbors lest they narc on you".
posted by backseatpilot at 9:55 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


I would think rule #1 of conducting this sort of mission would be "if you're going to do something quasi-legal, don't piss off your neighbors lest they narc on you".

That's usually something we go over at orientation, yes. One of the interesting things about the Diggers, to me, is that while they did a lot of activist street theater to highlight injustices and just general bullshit, the actual Free Store stuff was a lot more low key so that it could actually function. They were very tactical which was why in some ways they were very effective.
posted by jessamyn at 9:57 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Huh. My reaction to this is making me feel, like, uncomfortably conservative.

For me, I think this is sort of a textbook example of "How to do Liberal wrong". More enthusiasm than common sense, more self seeking attention than works.

It’s easy to see the other sides faults, and see the most visible boneheads as representative of all. And it’s hard not to have knee jerk reactions to something you already aren’t inclined to agree with. Right now there are people reading that article who think Maximus Thaler represents everything about food programs, and liberals in general.
posted by bongo_x at 9:57 AM on March 18


Any Dumpster-diving based charity in Massachusetts is also going to bump into this new law banning large-scale commercial disposal of food waste in Dumpsters. I bet Trader Joe's and most large restaurants and grocery stores in Massachusetts will be affected by the ban.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 9:58 AM on March 18


file this under "Charismatic [insert subculture] Leader Attempts To Do Something Ostensibly Good Which In Practice Exacts a Personal Toll On All Involved Because of Consequences that Could Have Been Anticipated And Avoided Given Proper Social Systems of Regulation"
posted by ethansr at 10:08 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


How does a kickstarter only get 3,000 dollars when it gets written up in that many high profile publications?

This guy will probably figure out his place in the world eventually. I hope. His contribution has more potential than most.
posted by lownote at 10:21 AM on March 18


Now that I've thought about that a little more, I think its because most potential funders realized he didn't exactly have a rock solid plan for success. A cool vague idea and some motivation aren't really enough to do good.

Also, he totally kickstarted his rent. That can't be kosher with the kickstarter ToS
posted by lownote at 10:27 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Huh. My reaction to this is making me feel, like, uncomfortably conservative.

It's funny... I kinda hope that the local health inspectors would find a way to let them do this with appropriately large HEY THIS IS DUMPSTER FOOD SO BE-FUCKING-WARE signs.

But doing it out of a townhouse basement? That's just a thirty-people-dead fire waiting to happen.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


So this was basically just someone trying to do pagpag in the U.S., right? I certainly would have health concerns about it, but considering how much fecal matter ends up in our ground meat in supposedly-less-dangerous places to obtain food (e.g., to just grab a link off the first page of Google results) I have to wonder if it's actually an exceptionally bad thing that really justifies the finger-wagging. The building safety issues ROU_Xenophobe suggests seem much more substantial to me.

If this really only wasted ~$3000 and a bunch of elbow grease from some college kids, on a societal level at least we frequently waste a hell of alot more on considerably more lethal or pointless faceplants. I actually wonder if it generated more revenue for media companies than it cost in Kickstarter donations, and I'd never heard of Food Not Bombs before this thread. Though I could certainly sympathize with frustrated donors to Mr. Maximus &co.
posted by XMLicious at 10:43 AM on March 18


The main problem was that they weren’t on the lease, but tensions also grew with the house’s other residents when it became clear they intended to serve food out of the basement.

No fucking kidding. I think I know which house this was. Like, I think it was the house at my secondary bus stop. There's certainly a dead couch on the front porch. Although, near Tufts "worn out couch on the porch" doesn't narrow it down that much...

How were they not on the lease?! Is "they" the Kitchen or was it a full on sublet?

At least he didn't set the dumpster food they had collected on fire.
posted by maryr at 10:43 AM on March 18


I couldn't help but think of "pink slime" when reading about this. What is pink slime, after all, but industrial-scale, organized dumpster diving?
posted by alexei at 10:52 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I couldn't help but think of "pink slime" when reading about this. What is pink slime, after all, but industrial-scale, organized dumpster diving?

Done, as gross as the practice may be, in relatively controlled foodsafe conditions with fresh product.

As opposed to Dumpster diving, where literally anything could have come into contact with that food. Diapers. Meat thrown out because it had gone bad. Broken glass. Dishwasher chemicals. Vomit. Anything could be in Dumpsters.

This is a totally unreasonable comparison.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Also, what the actual hell does this mean?

4. I wonder if it hurt when he had his foreskin sewn back on.


He just looks like the kind of guy who would go back to being uncircumcised.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:20 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


For those curious about how to utilize food that would otherwise go to waste, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is a good example. They pick up food from various places, like grocery stores and bring it to a central warehouse, where it is distributed to various food pantries and shelters.

They've been around for over 40 years, but dang, 66 million pounds of food a year.

I feel bad when I forget about leftover soup in the fridge, or some produce spoils, but it doesn't mean I'm going to offer it to someone as a free meal. There are ways to source food without resorting to dumpster diving.

So kudos for the idea, I guess, but maybe he should have planned it out better, yes. Just sounds like someone young and idealistic without any experience to execute the idea.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:22 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


He just looks like the kind of guy who would go back to being uncircumcised.

That's a) a truly bizarre thing to say, and b) even more bizarre to use as an insult.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:27 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


I used to dumpster dive a lot. Never got sick. It was pretty easy to tell what was safe and what wasn't. It's not like kitchen conditions in restaurants are always so fantastic either.

We definitely used dumpstered food when doing FNB when I did it in the early 90's. Not saying that was the best move, but the food seemed fresh, and it worked out.

When I was poor I ate out of the garbage pretty frequently.
posted by josher71 at 11:31 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Dumpstering depends a lot on what you're dumpstering, so to speak. I had no concerns about the imperfect lemons, bagged bread in a heap with other bagged bread, bags of apples, sealed packages of yogurt which had expired that day and spent the evening in an autumn-cold dumpster, shrink-wrapped boxes of mushrooms, etc. I passed on things from sticky piles, virtually all dairy, things that had been sitting around for a long time in the heat and things that were bagged but among leaky sticky things. I took my food home and washed it thoroughly right away before refrigerating it. I'm not saying that I would totally recommend this approach if someone was immunocompromised, but seriously, a whole and unbruised lemon is going to be fine as long as you wash it before you use it and it wasn't sitting in a pile of decay.

There also used to a be a dumpster around here where there were routinely whole sealed jars of peanut butter, I'm not sure why. And there was the restaurant that used to bag up all their bread in plastic bags and set them neatly at the top of the cardboard dumpster at the end of the night.

Again, yes, you shouldn't "eat out of the garbage" if you mean "eat anything you find in the dumpster, especially without washing or cooking it first", but as with anything, your mileage may vary.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Portland used to have, and may still, the dumpster that Gardenburger used. You could find bags and bags of Gardenburgers in there that were perfectly fine. That was how I survived the year 1996.
posted by josher71 at 11:46 AM on March 18


Meanwhile, the conservative blogosphere went apeshit (warning; almost all searches on this story lead to similar crazypants sites) when an 11-year-old girl was stopped from selling cupcakes from her home. She was adorable! Government interference! etc. etc.

But you know what, 11-year-old girls aren't trained in keeping a clean kitchen, monitoring food freshness, or any of the other things that most people actually want in a food vendor. The state did the right thing, because what if she did end up giving someone food poisoning, or contaminated food? I am a fan of enterprising young people, but those laws exist for a reason, and that reason is not Crushing Our Democracy.

Anyway, now the state of Illinois is considering amending the law, and she has been offered assistance in building a commercial kitchen. All of which are fine things.

The girl herself comes across as entirely reasonable, and ok with things that people eat needing to be licensed and regulated. The crazy-ass folks who seized on her as a "cause" are a whole other story, though.
posted by emjaybee at 11:54 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


For me, I think this is sort of a textbook example of "How to do Liberal wrong". ... It’s easy to see the other sides faults, and see the most visible boneheads as representative of all. ... Right now there are people reading that article who think Maximus Thaler represents everything about food programs, and liberals in general.

(American) Liberalism is about using the State to solve problems, through regulation, laws, and programs. This guy is no Liberal. His invocation of "red tape" and "bureaucrats," and his attempts to subvert the protections that keep society safe, put him only a couple of mental steps away from pro-business Conservatism. He's the enemy of Liberalism, and I'm willing to be super-sneery.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:57 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


He just looks like the kind of guy who would go back to being uncircumcised.

That's a) a truly bizarre thing to say, and b) even more bizarre to use as an insult.


It's not an insult per se. It's more of a comment on that hippy-dippy-hipster-grunge dude.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:58 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


It's a really weird and bizarre comment, then. Like, seriously, wtf.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:04 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, the conservative blogosphere went apeshit (warning; almost all searches on this story lead to similar crazypants sites) when an 11-year-old girl was stopped from selling cupcakes from her home. She was adorable! Government interference! etc. etc.

Also the lede on the TED Radio Hour while I was driving the other day. Along with comments about how all reasonable people can see how stupid this is. Reminded my why I don’t listen to that show.
posted by bongo_x at 12:16 PM on March 18


(American) Liberalism is about using the State to solve problems, through regulation, laws, and programs. This guy is no Liberal. His invocation of "red tape" and "bureaucrats," and his attempts to subvert the protections that keep society safe, put him only a couple of mental steps away from pro-business Conservatism. He's the enemy of Liberalism, and I'm willing to be super-sneery.

Good point. Politics is hard.
posted by bongo_x at 12:17 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I have personally known experienced, hard-working, hardened people wipe out in the restaurant business. It is brutal.

Yeah. Waste is bad, sure, but the idea that food costs are anything like the hardest problem a restaurant faces is ridiculous.
posted by mhoye at 12:21 PM on March 18


Food waste is a serious problem, and while I do appreciate some of this guy's ideas...

Logistics like if you’re “… preparing food from the dumpster in a non-inspected kitchen space, you will eventually run into trouble with the law,” as one longtime diver would later put it

It really sounds like his plan was going to result in giving away food poisoning, for free. This is a soup kitchen that would serve food from the garbage.

People who cannot afford food deserve to eat food that is safe to eat and is prepared in a manner that is hygienic and won't make them sick. It is one thing to dumpster dive and make a decision that what you are eating is safe and a risk you are willing to take. But to serve it to others--especially when giving it away to people who (I am presuming) have very limited food options and access to medical care--just seems incredibly misguided and a little cruel.
posted by inertia at 12:51 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


But to serve it to others--especially when giving it away to people who (I am presuming) have very limited food options and access to medical care--just seems incredibly misguided and a little cruel.

We certainly never saw it that way when I was doing it. I can appreciate that now, but it was still perfectly good food thrown away that we re-purposed.
posted by josher71 at 12:58 PM on March 18


Silly me, I assumed that "dumpster diving" was a provocative euphamism for arrangements he had made with local restaurants and grocery stores to claim their unwanted, yet still edible castoffs.

Nope, he actually climbed into metal bins in back alleys. Good lord.
posted by CaseyB at 1:08 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Lars Eighner's "On Dumpster Diving" [PDF] is still relevant, and the reason why I'd have been skeptical of this idea from the get-go.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:38 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I can understand the man's impulse, the sheer amount of food that went into the grocery store dumpster when I worked there was a crime.

This wasn't the right solution though, and idealism aside, the whole "Whoops, I lost all the kickstarter money because I lied to the landlord" is some irresponsible bullshit.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:38 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


especially when giving it away to people who (I am presuming) have very limited food options and access to medical care

Yeah, you can't win. You open a dumpster kitchen for your college friends who can afford a sandwich, and it looks like you're just patting yourself on the back while ignoring the genuinely hungry people out there. You open a dumpster kitchen for those genuinely hungry people, and you're putting them at risk for illnesses that they can't afford to treat (and you're insulting them to boot: here, eat this garbage! What, you're too good for garbage?).

This whole idea was just incredibly poorly thought out, in every way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:58 PM on March 18


It's worth noting the things that backers paid for in the Kickstarter are mostly crafts projects. Presumably he'll be delivering those so he doesn't have to refund the $3212 to the backers. Reading the project it's a bit weird; the pitch is "raising money to create a public space where all forms of value can be exchanged freely" and "a cafe, decorated with dumpstered flowers and cheap art, where people hungry for a different world can come and exchange ideas". But then what you're actually buying is a postcard.

$3212 is a tiny amount of money. And I feel certain the demonstration of Mr. Thaler's skill at promoting ideas will far outshine any damage to his reputation from this project falling through in a completely predictable way. Man, I miss the college years.
posted by Nelson at 3:07 PM on March 18


It seriously hasn't occurred to me until now how much dumpster diving was normalized in my peer group. People's reactions genuinely surprised me.
posted by josher71 at 3:09 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Dumpster diving is Pilkington-approved, which is all the evidence I need.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:23 PM on March 18


(American) Liberalism is about using the State to solve problems, through regulation, laws, and programs. This guy is no Liberal. His invocation of "red tape" and "bureaucrats," and his attempts to subvert the protections that keep society safe, put him only a couple of mental steps away from pro-business Conservatism. He's the enemy of Liberalism, and I'm willing to be super-sneery.

God, but I love Metafilter sometimes. He's probably a climate change-denier, too.

That time we didn't get a pony when we were kids? This guy. It was his fault, the fascist.
posted by codswallop at 3:25 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


As someone who lived in the area and rented ZipCars all the time, I'm just so thrilled to learn I was carting around trunks full of salmonella courtesy of dumpster diving residue. I hope this guy is banned from HONK for life so he can anticipate the festival with the same level of dread that 95% of Somerville does.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:01 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Oh man. I met this guy a couple years ago. You don't forget a name like Maximus.

My friend and I wanted to go to PaxEast in Boston for cheap. I suggested Couchsurfing. At the time I had hosted quite a few people with my old roommates and had a 95% positive experience, but I hadn't surfed anyone else's couch yet. My ex-girlfriend, who was living in a co-op at the time, was going to PaxEast that weekend too and found an art student co-op on Tufts campus that graciously accepted her couchsurfing request. She suggested we stay there with her, since I was having trouble finding a last minute place. My friend was really nervous about the idea of spending the night at a some strange hippies' house but I reassured him the whole car ride that it was going to be fine. Besides, this was a chance to meet up again with an old flame.

We pulled up to the Crafts House and knew we had the right place when someone on the porch offered me a joint. My heart sank when we walked inside. I've seen some messy college kids (hell I was one), but this place was a serious dump. Maximus, our point of contact from couchsurfing showed us around. They just didn't look prepared for guests - the entire place was trashed and no futon or couch was ready for three people to sleep on. They weren't embarrassed or apologetic though, like their disregard for cleanliness and general etiquette was a badge of honor or a kind of lazy enlightenment. "If you want to do the dishes that would be cool." He gestured toward a sink full of crusty old plates. There was a vague promise that one of their roommates (who incidentally was unaware of us) would clean out her room for us. So, we sat in their living room, staring at an old moldy pot of what looked to be spaghetti on the dirty floor for a while, debating how rude it would be to just leave and ditch the place while we waited. We ended up staying the one night. The next morning we dropped a bottle of wine in the fridge for tribute.

I'm reminded of another dumpster diver I used to know named James. James would come by every Thursday to eat dinner with my roommates and me. Really nice guy. He always insisted on doing the dishes, and he always brought a tupperware container full of donuts. There was a partly unspoken acknowledgment that they were dumpster donuts. One day James offered to show me how he got free donuts every week. So we hopped on our bikes and I followed him to the dumpster behind Dunkin' Donuts. Before I even popped my kickstand out, he was shoulders deep inside the dumpster, digging around. I stepped in with some hesitation and helped him search for the goods. "Ah, here it is." The donuts were in a regular, black garbage bag with napkins, coffee grounds, and other ... trash. Before that I imagined they were always separate, in their own clean bags. That's the problem with this dumpster diving business. Do you trust the standards of the person collecting your food? I still ate the donuts after that though, because c'mon free donuts.

Anyway, I say this because while the concept is admirable this restaurant would have probably turned my stomach - and not just because of the knee jerk ick factor of "Eww, you mean that food comes from the trash?" Dumpster diving can be done right. My initial reaction to this story was "Wow that guy? I wouldn't trust him to cook fresh, not-from-a-dumpster food." As other people have noted, there's a reason health and safety codes exist. The kind of naivete that hand-waves those rules is like the liberal equivalent of the ignorant idealism displayed by Bitcoin enthusiasts. Eventually you come to realize why zoning laws, health codes, and other government regulations exist.

On the plus side though, I reunited with my ex-girlfriend that weekend and now we're married. So thanks, Maximus!
posted by MrFTBN at 11:32 PM on March 18 [15 favorites]


I knew my share of people like Maximus while going to school in Montreal, and eating happily at the Phoenix Cafe on St. Laurent, a restaurant collective named "the Phoenix" because they kept getting shut down by the health inspector and re-opening. But it was impossible to not feel the love the staff there put into the place. The plates were clean, service was good, food was really good, and you could tell that this wasn't some pie-tastic scheme to use positive vibes to get others to make stone soup for you. They did the actual labour of running a restaurant and governing themselves via intolerably long collectivist meetings where everyone got to have their say.

But there are always guys like Maximus around, who seem, with total sincerity, to believe that the point of all that hippie devotion to the welfare of all is to make it easier for them to skim their own cream if they just supply the positive vibes and grandiose ideas. I think the maturing of any collective happens when they learn to turf out dickheads like Maximus as soon as they spot them.
posted by fatbird at 11:42 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


[in response to me calling this guy the enemy of Liberalism]

God, but I love Metafilter sometimes. He's probably a climate change-denier, too. That time we didn't get a pony when we were kids? This guy. It was his fault, the fascist.

Ha!!! Alright, good point. (You pony-thieving nazi.) I think Metafilter gets me too pugnacious because it seems so full of Liberal-bashing lefties and SJWs, so I want to push back.

And I've been thinking about people like the Whole Earth Catalog guy who seemed to have so easily slipped into the world of Silicon Valley capitalism. (I think a lot of Sixties/Seventies progressive/eco-thinking only expressed itself through traditional American Liberal rhetoric because that's what Establishment common-sense looked like at the time -- a time when the institutions were in the hands of people who'd grown up under the New Deal -- not because it was inherently in tune with that older political worldview. Once the baby-boomer generation got money it turned out to be more comfortable with "free enterprise" than "statism.") But, you know, I've got no real evidence Maximus Thaler is secretly Stewart Brand, or that he really believes government is the problem not the solution. My apologies.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:01 AM on March 19


Baking cupcakes in your kitchen is fine for you. For someone who can't come in and inspect how clean your kitchen is? For someone who doesn't know whether you're informed enough to know to wash your hands? Foodborne illness can be fatal. "I know I'm being safe" is fine for you, it's not fine for other people. For every well-meaning and extremely tidy would-be home restaurateur who can engage in a food-related industry without being any kind of danger, there's someone else who would really love to be able to run their restaurant without visits from the health inspector because their fridge doesn't work properly and they can't actually afford to fix it and they're pretty sure it's safe until it turns out it's not. A couple dozen people die of salmonella every year, in the US, and that number's only that low because we regulate these things.
posted by Sequence at 3:48 AM on March 19


I think that more credence is being given to inspection regimes than is warranted. I've never worked in the restaurant industry but I think the low level of sanitation depicted in Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential or on Gordon Ramsay reality shows really is not too far off from the actual standard. A relative of mine was in charge of HACCP compliance at an industrial food supplier in the U.S. before retiring a few years ago and he says that he now basically can't stand to eat at any restaurant where the food preparation area is visible from where you sit because all he sees is the employees committing nonstop HACCP violations.

Another relative who is in charge of a kitchen at a health care facility, which I think may be inspected more frequently than commercial establishments in many places, says that the score they get seems to have much more to do with whether or not they've pissed off the health inspector or the inspector is having a bad day, rather than whether the inspector is actually catching the same issues my relative can see herself and is having her employees correct on her own.

And I don't know if it's a similar situation in supermarkets and their supply chain but the aforementioned fecal matter in all the ground meat makes me think it's probably not too different.

MrFTBN seems to have personally met Maximus and reports that his personal standards of sanitation is pretty low, even for guests in his home. And the author of the article Halloween Jack linked to, who was dumpster diving while homeless in Texas and had no way to cook the food he would get, expected to get dysentery an average of once per month. But I'm skeptical that, in the U.S. at least, there's any cause to regard other sources of food as in general super duper safe by comparison with the cooked products of dumpster diving, or particularly things like the sealed containers of peanut butter that Frowner mentions.

I would be interested to know, for the lethal cases of salmonella poisoning yearly or the many many other cases of food poisoning that occur, what percentage of the time the food involved came from a source that is theoretically under an inspection regime or even multiple ones. I certainly think that there should be health inspection regimes and that they should be fully funded and able to ramp up their inspections when needed to achieve statistical quality control of their activities, and that corruption and incompetence should be rooted out, but that's a very different world from the one where we're actually getting our food: more like a distant ideal that we aim at rather than anything like what we've put in place or are willing to accept the costs of at a societal level.
posted by XMLicious at 7:13 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


There's no guarantee that asking for a refund for a defunct kickstarter will actually get you a refund. NOT THAT I'M BITTER. not this kickstarter project, btw
posted by rmd1023 at 7:25 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


The main problem was that they weren’t on the lease, but tensions also grew with the house’s other residents when it became clear they intended to serve food out of the basement. They also never ran the plan by the landlord or property manager.

This guy is an idiot.
posted by prepmonkey at 7:40 AM on March 19


I think that more credence is being given to inspection regimes than is warranted.

Inspection doesn't have to be 100% efficient to be effective. In fact, any decent control system will be overdesigned, anticipating some amount of failure and/or outright cheating. For any given standard, some kitchens will be cleaner and some kitchens will be dirtier: the trick is to calibrate your standard high enough so that you don't hassle the clean kitchens too much and the dirty kitchens don't kill too many people.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:15 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I would be interested to know, for the lethal cases of salmonella poisoning yearly or the many many other cases of food poisoning that occur, what percentage of the time the food involved came from a source that is theoretically under an inspection regime or even multiple ones.

Well, the CDC does have some info here: Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks — United States, 1998–2008:

Settings
Of the 13,405 outbreaks, a single place of food preparation was reported for 11,627 (86%) (Table 2). Of these, 7,939 (68%) were associated with food prepared in a restaurant or deli, 1,058 (9%) with food prepared in a private home, 794 (7%) with food prepared by a catering or banquet facility, and the remainder with food prepared in another place (Table 2). Among the 1,147 outbreaks of Salmonella infection with a single place of food preparation, the most common places were a restaurant or deli (623 [54%] outbreaks) and a private home (232 [20%] outbreaks).

The average outbreak size varied by place of food preparation. The largest outbreaks occurred in institutional settings, including prisons or jails (median: 45 illnesses), schools (median: 38 illnesses), and camps (median: 25 illnesses) (Table 4). Outbreaks in which the food was prepared in restaurants were among the smallest reported (median: five illnesses). Outbreaks in which the food was prepared in a private home had a median of eight illnesses.


I'm sure that there are some people here who can digest all this information better than I can, but one thing I was surprised about was that median outbreak size of restaurants were so small compared to all the other groups.
posted by inertia at 8:35 AM on March 19


I've never worked in the restaurant industry

Then with respect, perhaps you shouldn't be commenting on how the restaurant industry functions.

but I think the low level of sanitation depicted in Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential or on Gordon Ramsay reality shows really is not too far off from the actual standard.

Actually, it really is. To the point where Ramsay has been sued for making it seem worse than it actually was on camera. And Bourdain didn't talk much about low levels of sanitation in restaurants, he mostly talked about questionable behaviour by employees of those restaurants.

Sure, there are some pretty gross kitchens out there. I walked out of an interview for a sous position after seeing the state of their kitchen. But they are rare, you know why? Health inspectors. Their very inconsistency (oh shit, has s/he had a bad day) is exactly why we keep our kitchens clean. Health code violations can shut down your restaurant for days, to say nothing of irreparably damaging your reputation. One bad health inspection can be the difference between life and death for a restaurant.

A relative of mine was in charge of HACCP compliance at an industrial food supplier in the U.S. before retiring a few years ago and he says that he now basically can't stand to eat at any restaurant where the food preparation area is visible from where you sit because all he sees is the employees committing nonstop HACCP violations.

The only HACCP violation I've ever seen in an open kitchen--and I wager I know a leetle more about HACCP than you do, since I have to actually deal with it on a regular basis--is occasional hair touching.

We hear about disgusting restaurants precisely because they are the exception and not the rule. The vast majority of restaurants are up to code.

Also, on preview, see what inertia posted.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Inspection doesn't have to be 100% efficient to be effective. In fact, any decent control system will be overdesigned, anticipating some amount of failure and/or outright cheating.

Did you see the link I offered above, though? It says that in one study, more than half of the ground turkey tested was contaminated with fecal bacteria. Talking about 100% effectiveness or overdesigning the system at that point seems ridiculous.

A valid response is to say "well a certain amount of turkey shit or cow shit in our food is acceptable, at scale" but what I'm saying is that at that point, presuming to look down our noses at the food dumpster divers might cook is a bit, er, hard to swallow.
posted by XMLicious at 8:41 AM on March 19


Have you ever seen what goes in a restaurant dumpster?

Broken glass. Burnt food. Busbins full of something that's gone off. Rotten vegetables that your useless fucking supplier sent again. Bleach. Dishwasher chemicals. Food that other people with god knows what diseases have chewed on. Napkins containing god only knows what bodily substances. Used toilet paper, maxipads, and tampons. Rat droppings. Mould of all sorts. Pee. Leaky inkjet cartridges.

I could go on and on but one trusts you see my point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:46 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


And Bourdain didn't talk much about low levels of sanitation in restaurants

Except for things like
If you cut yourself in the Work Progress kitchen, tradition called for maximum spillage and dispersion of blood. One squeezed the wound till it ran freely, then hurled great gouts of red spray on the jackets and aprons of comrades.
I can't imagine how I've managed to be served a hamburger containing a raw beef patty twice in my life at different restaurants, while having never to my recollection served myself raw ground beef while cooking at home despite having done that much more frequently than I've eaten at restaurants, if the average standards are so high.

Hey, if the particular things I'm saying are really wildly unreasonable from the perspective of someone who is more familiar with the state of sanitation end-to-end through the food supply chain in the U.S., by all means I yield, but I don't think these issues are completely beyond the ability of people who don't work in the food industry to comprehend: I mean nearly everybody does end up with a fair amount of experience handling and preparing food, if only for themselves.
posted by XMLicious at 8:58 AM on March 19


(And btw I'm not talking about a hamburger patty with a pink center there, I'm talking about one where one or both sides of the patty clearly weren't exposed to any heat source at all and more than half of its volume is obviously raw. I just find it easy to believe the apparent ratio of private-home-cooking-to-restaurant-or-deli food poisonings in the statistics inertia cites, which agrees with my impression from food poisoning statistics I've read in the past.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:11 AM on March 19


Have you ever seen what goes in a restaurant dumpster?

Just as a point of clarification - among folks I know, restaurant dumpsters are not a big source of food for precisely these reasons. There are particular places where they will, for instance, bag up all their old bread with absolutely nothing else in the bag and put it at the top of the dumpster, or places like the pizza place described in the Eighner article linked up thread where there's boxed food that just wasn't given out, and there are restaurants which will sometimes toss out sealed packages of something that is not past its use-by date but is just surplus in some way, but as a broad generality, restaurant dumpsters are like home garbage cans - they're too mixed up and messy to be a good idea.

There are lot of shops, however, which toss out untouched food still packed in some way. The place I used to go, which was just a generic mainstream grocery store, had a food dumpster, a garbage dumpster and a cardboard dumpster (I have no idea why) but it did mean that you pretty much knew what you were getting. Hence the mushrooms still in their shrinkwrap, the flats of various fruits and vegetables, the occasional loaves of bread still in their plastic bags, and also hence the relative lack of loathesome stickiness and decay - the worst you were going to find was squished fruit from that day.
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


If you cut yourself in the Work Progress kitchen, tradition called for maximum spillage and dispersion of blood. One squeezed the wound till it ran freely, then hurled great gouts of red spray on the jackets and aprons of comrades.

Bourdain has also widely acknowledged the hyperbole that went into the book.

I can't imagine how I've managed to be served a hamburger containing a raw beef patty twice in my life at different restaurants, while having never to my recollection served myself raw ground beef while cooking at home despite having done that much more frequently than I've eaten at restaurants, if the average standards are so high.

Because at home you're cooking one, maybe up to four or five burgers. In a restaurant you could be doing that many every minute, and mistakes happen. But in any case we're talking about sanitation, and not "Shit we shouldn't have sent that out."

I don't think these issues are completely beyond the ability of people who don't work in the food industry to comprehend: I mean nearly everybody does end up with a fair amount of experience handling and preparing food, if only for themselves.

First of all, most home kitchens are absolute pants at preventing things like cross contamination and disinfecting surfaces and crannies properly. I never said these issues are beyond the ability of people not in the industry to comprehend, I said if you're not in the industry you probably don't know what you're talking about--as in this case, for example, where you're claiming that the disgusting messes shown on restaurants that have already gone down the drain are somehow close to the norm. They're not, so probably a good idea to stop spreading misinformation.

had a food dumpster, a garbage dumpster and a cardboard dumpster (I have no idea why)

Compost, landfill, recycling.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:59 AM on March 19


...presuming to look down our noses at the food dumpster divers might cook is a bit, er, hard to swallow.

But my point isn't that I'm looking down on people who dumpster dive for food and cook it.

If I'm going to dumpster dive and make a decision about what is safe for me to eat and the risks I am willing to take, that is one thing. But when I serve food to others, I need to take responsibility and make sure that is as safe as possible.

Just because soup kitchens give food away for free does not mean that they should not be preparing food that is as safe as possible to consume, in an environment that is safe (maybe not a filthy basement with one tiny door, for example).

$3,200 is not a lot of money for what he was trying to start, sure. But it would have been a very nice donation to a functioning soup kitchen.
posted by inertia at 11:11 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Bourdain has also widely acknowledged the hyperbole that went into the book.

Characterizing vegans as a "Hezbollah-like splinter faction" of vegetarians is obviously hyperbole. But if he now says that incidents like those described in the quote above do not happen in the restaurant kitchens he's known and to say so would be an outrageous exaggeration, that sounds more like someone has said, "Jesus fucking Christ, I ate there regularly, did the things you put in your book actually happen?" and he has responded "Aww shucks no, I made it all up" or maybe slightly less evasively "the names of the restaurants involved have been changed to protect the innocent."

But in any case we're talking about sanitation, and not "Shit we shouldn't have sent that out."

I was lumping together the "mistakes happen" stuff with all the possible sources of food poisoning or other foodborne illness, in the course of discussing whether our conventional sources of food provide safety worth boasting about.

Implying that HACCP violations beyond "occasional hair touching" don't happen in open kitchens, when evidently you're acquainted enough with the "mistakes happen" phenomenon to be unsurprised by someone being served raw ground beef, (though in those cases I experienced, they weren't in restaurants with open kitchens) while trying to convince me that I don't understand what a HACCP violation is, seems like much more thorough and intentional misinformation than what I'm saying.

Obviously if I've only been served raw ground beef (to my knowledge) twice in my entire life I don't think it happens in every restaurant all the time—I've eaten in a restaurant considerably more than two times.

It's just that all of the "mistakes happen" incidents do add up to a food safety situation with substantial problems, even when compared to home kitchens, which as you rightly point out aren't very safe in and of themselves on average. So even if the restaurant/deli food poisoning rate as listed above were the same as the one for home kitchens, that still wouldn't point to a particularly high degree of safety, according to what you're saying yourself.

inertia: I totally agree with you that donating the money to a soup kitchen would have been a far better use of the money in this instance and I think this should have been obvious ahead of time. And I think that when one is serving food to others one needs to take responsibility for its safety. I just don't think that on average our commercial sources of food set much of a high bar in that regard, and so I think that any particular person gathering, cooking, and serving food in any particular way might quite easily exceed the average in the degree of responsibility they take and the safety they provide.
posted by XMLicious at 11:34 AM on March 19


And to get specific, a particular example my relative gave was seeing someone in an open kitchen take a container of food out of a refrigerator and place it on a food preparation surface, remove something from the container and return it to the refrigerator, and then continue preparing food on the surface without sanitizing it. Maybe that isn't actually a HACCP violation, but like I said this is someone who was the director of HACCP compliance for a fairly large company as food suppliers go (not a company that makes food in the first place, but one that standardizes its packaging and handling and ships it) and if that is genuinely an example of a HACCP violation I am extremely doubtful that the only HACCP violations usually visible in an open kitchen are occasional hair touching and I needn't worry my little non-food-industry head about it or mention it to anyone else because I don't understand it.
posted by XMLicious at 11:50 AM on March 19


Characterizing vegans as a "Hezbollah-like splinter faction" of vegetarians is obviously hyperbole. But if he now says that incidents like those described in the quote above do not happen in the restaurant kitchens he's known and to say so would be an outrageous exaggeration, that sounds more like someone has said, "Jesus fucking Christ, I ate there regularly, did the things you put in your book actually happen?" and he has responded "Aww shucks no, I made it all up" or maybe slightly less evasively "the names of the restaurants involved have been changed to protect the innocent."

Or more likely there was a single incident where someone cut themselves and acted like an ass, and he exaggerated it for narrative convenience, as he has admitted doing multiple times about that book.

Implying that HACCP violations beyond "occasional hair touching" don't happen in open kitchens, when evidently you're acquainted enough with the "mistakes happen" phenomenon to be unsurprised by someone being served raw ground beef, (though in those cases I experienced, they weren't in restaurants with open kitchens) while trying to convince me that I don't understand what a HACCP violation is, seems like much more thorough and intentional misinformation than what I'm saying.


I didn't say I was unsurprised. I would be surprised at a kitchen sending out raw meat, because it means whoever's at the pass isn't doing their job. In my experience, open kitchens are more concerned about HACCP and safe food handling than closed kitchens, precisely because you can see what's going on.

At the end of the day, one of us works in this industry and one of us doesn't. I leave it up to the reader as to whose opinion is actually grounded in fact.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:32 PM on March 19


Gee. Remember back in the day, when an energetic kid like this with big pipe-induced dreams came along, all curly haired and bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and the dirty hippie house he lived at had to have eleventy-billion basement shows to get up the funds to put together his grand vision? And during one of those eleventy billion basement shows and drum sessions out in the backyard, eventually some old hippie dude or punker daddy or tattooed mama would show up and say, Oh hai, y'know there's sucha thing as Food Not Bombs, maybe we could join forces? or Wow, great idea kids, didja, like, ask the landlord or... you know, think about The Man and His Regulatory Forces? I know somebody who knows somebody ... and there would be lots of hashing out and talking out and one way or another either the kids would give up on their grand vision because they got sucked up into the maw of the Rainbow Family or took off for Mexico or maybe even got it together because there'd BEEN ENOUGH TALKING and we got the funds and the plans are RIGHT and it all makes sense and LETS DO IT.

Today it takes like a week because of social media, and everything just goes poof in like a minute because there just weren't enough long drawn out ridiculously maddening meetings with drumming and conch holding and consensus building.

So that's one drawback to The Present Technowizardry.
posted by RedEmma at 1:38 PM on March 19 [8 favorites]


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