waiter, there’s a fly in my trash: why dumpster diving will save the planet
in aimee bender’s novel, the particular sadness of lemon cake, rose edelstein has a curious relationship with food. she can taste emotions. it’s an overwhelming nuisance. rose knows when her mother is feeling lost after a bite of her pie; when the local cookie baker is in a rush, rose can taste it; a friend’s turkey sandwich was made with so much love that rose feels grateful and jealous with each bite. rose finds cool respite in metallically sterile, machine-squeezed foods. globbing up her meals with factory ketchup, doritos and pringles, the lifeless ersatz void cleanses her palate from the bitter taste of human souls.
that food carries an emotional flavor is not fiction to filmmaker jeremy seifert. director of the multi-ward-winning documentary, dive!, seifert takes a look into the 96 billion pound pile of food being sent to landfills every year in america.
seifert’s relationship with food was not unusual. he bought it, ate it, and what he didn’t finish or forgot in the back of the refrigerator was tossed out for garbage trucks to haul off to that mysterious place where discards disappear. he wasn’t aloof about the world’s problems, but like most of us, he just didn’t really know how big of an issue an overripe banana was.
while friends were visiting seifert several years ago, they returned to his home one evening with large bags full of food. they spread the contents out all over his kitchen floor, snatching up what looked to be—and was—perfectly edible, but something was abnormal about this trip to the market. they had been to a trader joe’s in los angeles, but it was well after midnight and the store closed at ten. this food came from the store’s dumpsters.
seifert is bright. there is a soft humbleness to him—the kind you hope a politician would have without faking. a husband and father of three, generosity and sweetness oozes out of him, but with a patient, protective alertness you’d expect in a good father or big brother. he is not pretentious. he is not arrogant. he’s the nice guy who looks like he’d ride a skateboard to work wearing a backpack full of home made treats for everyone in the office, just ’cause. this type of kindness towards others, i imagine, is what might have made that night staring at a kitchen floor full of trash a life-changing moment for seifert—a realization that there was enough food there otherwise destined for a landfill to feed a lot of people, a lot of hungry people.