Archive for January, 2011

January 30, 2011

Dumpster Score #12: Seattle

Funny story.  So we’d heard that this pizza place called Hot Mama’s puts their left-over pizzas out on top of their dumpster (or neatly stacked inside) when they close up, at around 3 AM.  So we headed that way on our bikes to check out the scene, and the moment I peeked in the dumpster someone stepped out of the car that was parked right next to me (oops) and said, quite aggressively, “I wouldn’t eat that!”  I had been startled by their surprise presence, but I idiotically said, “You checked already?” thinking that they’d been dumpstering too.  They hadn’t.  They worked at the pizza place and were apparently responsible for all the pizza slices that I’d noticed in the dumpster.  “I heard you guys put old pizzas out when you close,” I said hopefully, but to no avail.  They said they didn’t have any left-over pizzas that day, and the woman repeated, in the same tone of voice, “I wouldn’t eat that!”  Ok, ok… we get the point.  We left, biked up the street, checked some other dumpsters (including the one behind the Field Roast vegan sausage factory!), circled around, and returned to Hot Mama’s.  This time the car was gone and, though there weren’t any clean boxes stacked on top of the dumpster full of untouched pizzas, we did rescue plenty of deliciousness from the dumpster itself.  I find people’s standards really interesting.  These are our standards: if it 1) tastes good, and 2) won’t make us sick, we’ll eat it.  But for a lot of people, the simple fact that something’s been inside (or even on top of) a trash can makes it totally inedible, regardless of the state of the food itself.  This seems really strange, and sad.  It just proves how far people have come from being able to find and assess their own food.  People, like all animals, used to forage for or catch their own food, selecting it from the multitude of objects in their natural environment.  We used to be able to determine if something was poisonous, needed to be cooked, or was too rotten.  Now we can’t recognize food when we see it; we rely on advertising to tell us what to eat.

Hot Mama’s Pizza: ~25 slices of pizza (veggie, cheese, pepperoni, sausage)

Naked Juice Factory: 3 cartons of banana-mango-orange juice, 2 cartons mango juice, 5 protein shakes

Mighty-O [vegan!] Donuts: 1 big bag of donuts

January 25, 2011

Vegan Potatoes Au Gratin

You might have noticed how many potatoes we scored on our last dumpster run.  Given that we almost always have plenty of nutritional yeast, this seemed like a logical dinner idea.

several green onions, chopped
2-3 squash/zucchini, sliced

several potatos, sliced
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
a pinch of tumeric
1/4 cup oil
1 cup nutritional yeast
Pre-heat oven to 350°

Pan fry the squash and the green onions until just cooked.  Set aside.

Put potatoes and onion in pot of water, bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Beat in flour with a wisk, continue to beat over medium flame until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Whip in boiling water, salt, soy sauce, garlic powder, and tumeric. Beat well to dissolve the flour mixture. The sauce should cook untill it thickens and bubbles. Whip in oil and nutritional yeast.

In a casserole dish put a layer of potatoes/squash/onions. Spread cheese sauce on top. Add another layer, add more cheese, repeat ’till you are out of potatoes/onions and cheese.  Bake for ~30 min.

January 24, 2011

Dumpster Score #11: Edmonds

I kind of thought that dumpstering in the suburbs wouldn’t be too good.  Clearly I was wrong.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


January 23, 2011

Apple Crumble

We traveled to Seattle with a huge bag of questionable apples left-over from Food Not Bombs in Davis.  Once settled at my parents’ house we decided to make apple crumble, and it turn out great (sorry, we ate it before a picture could be taken).

Filling: chop the apples into pieces, put them in a pot with a little water, cook them (covered) on medium heat until they’re nice and mushy, add some brown sugar and cinnamon

Topping: mix some brown sugar, cinnamon, oats (or in our case, granola), flour, and butter/margarine

Put the filling in an oven pan, top with the topping, and bake for a while.  That’s all you need to know!

January 22, 2011

A Slight Change of Plans: Davis to Seattle

My brother Jesse, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while, is in Seattle until January 27th, and I wanted to come home to see him. At first Max and I didn’t think we’d have enough fuel to drive Ollie from Davis to Seattle, so I tried to find a Craigslist ride. Unfortunately Craigslisters were charging $80 or wouldn’t email me back or whatever — you know how Craigslist is — and we kind of simultaneously decided to try to get enough oil for the 800 mile drive. Max called the Sacramento Biofuels Network (, and they told him that they would trade us for clean, dewatered veggie oil: if we gave them our dirty waste oil they would give us half that amount in their cleaned oil.

So our intention was set: if it was 800 miles from Davis to Edmonds (my home town north of Seattle) and Ollie gets 10 miles to the gallon, we needed 80 gallons of clean oil for the trip, which meant that we had to find 160 gallons of waste oil to trade with Sacramento Biofuels.  We filled four of our drums on our first oil run, the 5th (the fuel tank) being already partly full.  We decided to filter some of the dirty oil through our 30 μ filter, just so it didn’t look so gross when we offered it to Sacramento Biofuels, but we only got around to filtering two of the drums, so the other two stayed gross.

We drove out to Sacramento.  We actually had two missions in Sac: get a new tire, because one of our rear tires had an ominous hole in it, and hit up the Biofuels Network.  Getting the new tire was an adventure in itself.  They sold us a used tire for $65 (+ $20 for service), but after they’d put it on Max realized that they might have another one that we could trade for the slightly smaller spare he’d attached to the underside of the bus as a donut.  As it turned out, they did have another of the correct size, and the guy agreed to give it to us for $20 + our smaller tire + another $20 for the service of attaching it under the bus.  Max showed me how to unattach the old donut, so I ended up lying on my back in a muddy, oily puddle, wrestling with the bolts that attached the donut to the bus’ frame.  The guy who worked at the tire shop got under next to me.  “Why are you under here?  Cuz you’re smaller?…or cuz you’re more experienced?”  I wanted to tell him that it was because I wanted the experience, but didn’t get around to it.  The entire process took several hours, but in the end we got two tires attached to the appropriate places on Ollie for about $120, a good deal.

Next was the Sacramento Biofuels Network.  SBN is a grassroots organization that gets waste oil from restaurants [with whom they have contracts] and turns it into biodiesel, which they sell for about $3/gal.  They also have education programs which inform people about the personal and environmental benefits of using biofuel in their vehicles.  The guy we met up with, Silvano, took a look at our veggie oil and said he’d take the 60 gal that had gone through the 30 μ filter, but not the dirtier stuff.  So we ended up giving him 60 gal and getting about 40 gal of clean oil back, which was a great deal but not as much as we had hoped to get.  We showed him the bus and our filtration system.  He watched as we crawled awkwardly over oil drums and buckets, piles of wood wedged between the wood stove and the bed, filthy sheets we use as rags, and clothes that weren’t rags but were just unfortunate enough to be in the back of the bus.  He watched as Max and I took turns leaning over the drums with one foot on the greasy floor and the other on the wood pile to hand pump the oil.  He watched as I dove head-first into an empty drum to wipe the chunks of food and thick sludge from the bottom and off the sides.  “You have to be dedicated,” he said knowingly.  “It’s hard to find people who are dedicated enough to do this.  Especially women.”  I just told him that, indeed, it is hard work.

Unfortunately Silvano didn’t have time to wait while we filtered our other 60 gal, so we’d have to come back another day.  We decided to dumpster some of those 5-gal plastic containers that cooking oil comes in (Silvano called them “cubies” cuz they’re vaguely cube-shaped) and filter some of our dirty oil into them so we wouldn’t have to hand pump it into SBN’s tote like we did the first time.  We got 6 cubies (they looked hilarious bungeed to our bikes), filtered 30 gal into them, went on another oil run that night, and filtered the rest of what we had into our 30-gal drums.  The next day we went back to SBN.

This time we met up with Steve, a middle-aged hippie (I don’t think he’d be offended by that) who talked us up about conspiracy theory documentaries (he suggested Money is Debt, Gashole, End of Suburbia, Fuel), civilization after fossil fuel, and a commune he helped try to start that never quite got off the ground.  He told us that one of the people he usually got waste oil from had lied to him about the quality of the oil and had given him some shitty oil (ie. oil that had been cooked with over and over again until it had become so acidic that it was no longer good for making biodiesel).  As a result of this unfortunate incident, he felt forced to be more suspicious of oil he was getting, and thus had to test the acidity of the oil we were offering.  Our oil was pretty acidic, and for a moment it looked like he wouldn’t take any of it, but eventually he decided that he’d take 60 gal, and give us 30 gal back.

So now we had about 80 gal of clean, dewatered oil (which includes the bit we had from before our trips to SBN), and were ready to drive to Seattle.  We put up a Craigslist post seeking riders, and ended up contacting two guys who were trying to get to Edmonds and Bellingham, respectively.  Unfortunately they were in Berkeley, but we told them that if they’d pay us $40 each, we’d pick them up.  Tony left for LA on Tuesday, and we left his place at 7 AM Wednesday, heading towards Berkeley.

About half way to Berkeley Max noticed that a coolant leak we thought we’d fixed the day before was still leaking badly.  We pulled into a gas station but we had no idea how to fix the leak.  If we simply stopped the coolant from flowing we couldn’t run on veggie oil, and if we didn’t run on veggie oil we’d have to drive 800 miles on diesel (at 10 mi/gal), which we weren’t going to do.  After a couple hours of hand wringing and hair pulling we decided that maybe we needed to replace a part, so we called our Craigslisters and told them the situation (with many apologies; they were actually quite understanding) and drove on diesel to the nearest hardware store, crossing our fingers that they had the part we wanted.

The teenage employee who helped us at Ace Hardware must have thought we were pretty weird, jumping up and down and hurrahing about the fact that they had our part!  We were incredibly relieved to find that it fit and stopped the leak.  We called our poor Craigslisters back and told them we were on our way, albeit 4 hours late.

We picked them up in Berkeley at about 1:30 PM, and after driving about 20 minutes away from their place and realizing I’d left my phone there and driving back to their place it get it, we finally hit I-5 at 2:30 or so.  Then we drove.  Max and I switched off every few hours and the Craigslisters napped on the futon.  Several hours in Max asked me to check on the fuel level in our veggie oil tank.  It was way lower that it should have been, and when we pulled into a gas station to get some diesel I noticed that the entire right side of the bus was covered in oil.  We looked underneath the engine and sure enough, oil was spilling freely onto the pavement.  A tiny piece of bent metal under the hood had dug a hole into one of our fuel lines, and we’d basically spilled almost half of our preciously clean SBN fuel all over southern California.

We frantically scrambled to cut the fuel line above the hole and reattach it to the fuel filter, and thankfully once that was done it looked like all was well (except that we’d just lost a ton of fuel).  We drove on, used up the remaining veggie oil, and ended up driving about a third of the journey on diesel, spending quite a bit more money than we’d hoped to (and trying to explain the situation to our Craigslisters without totally freaking them out.  They weren’t hippies and I think the bus was pretty crazy to them, but at least they were chill.  They definitely seemed worried, but anyone would have been in our situation.  We were trying really hard not to freak out ourselves!)

We got into Seattle at about 7 AM Thursday morning.  We’d left Davis at 7 AM on Wednesday, so we’d been traveling for 24 hours non-stop.  Despite my nerves feeling fairly shredded, it was indescribably good to be home.  When you’re driving north towards Seattle on I-5 you go around this one curve to the right, and just as you go around it you get this incredible view of the city: skyscrapers, the Space Needle, the Sound, the trees.  It’s more beautiful during the day because of the greens and the blues, but the city lights are spectacular at night too, and every time I make that turn it takes my breath away.  I’ve never been a city person, and after 8 years in LA I have a strong desire to live in a cave in the wilderness, but none the less, I will always love Seattle.  It has always felt wonderful just to say “I’m from Seattle.”  It is a deeply satisfying feeling to come home to the Puget Sound, to feel nestled between the Cascades and the Olympics, to catch precious glimpses of Mt. Rainier, and to turn my face to the gentle constant rain.  I don’t think I could ever feel the same way about another city.


January 22, 2011

Sunwise, Davis

I guess kind of a theme for our stay in Davis was short visits to communities involving cooking/meals/dinners/etc. We had wanted to visit Sunwise since we had arrived in Davis, and because we knew we were taking off soon for Seattle, we arranged to come over for a dinner. We had sort of read about Sunwise on the website as well as the Davis wiki. Oooh I almost forgot, if you ever decide to travel to Davis, or just want to know more about the place, you have to check out Its basically a collaborative guide to the town. There’s information about intentional communities, the local bike cooperative, how to score free food, information about the Davis People’s Free School, Food Not Bombs, etc. Everyone mentions it and it was described as the “most complete wiki for any town in the US.”
Anyhow, so we were invited over to Sunwise for dinner, and like any good hippy dinner guests, we figured we’d need to find some dumpster bread to bring over to contribute. Luckily, there’s a place in Davis called the Village Bakery which throws out copious amounts of bread. We had been there about a week earlier and Rachel had gone inside and asked whether or not they had any old bread they were trying to get rid of. They told her that they had already donated all of it. Of course, i skipped the asking and went straight to the dumpster. There was a very large black trash bag full of bread. Not a bunch of loaves strewn about the dumpster, but one big bag of nothing but good looking bread. Go figure, I guess they donated the bread to the hungry dumpster foundation. Anyways, so we knew that the Village Bakery threw out good bread, so we headed over there before dinner and grabbed a couple big bags of bread to bring over to Sunwise.
Tony, Rachel and I biked over and, after some confusion about directions, arrived sort of in the middle of dinner. It was a little embarrassing, but all of the housemates were very nice and they hadn’t waited to start dinner for us, so it wasn’t a big deal. One of the housemates had cooked some very delicious polenta and greens and sweet potatoes and we broke out some delicious focaccia and sat down to eat. There were probably 6 or so people around the table. Most were about our age, post college and in graduate school or in fairly professional careers. There was also a mother her young(ish) child–6 or 7 maybe. The conversation was pretty light, mostly spurred on by the 7 year old. She showed us all how to make dragon faces with our hands, although I think I would be pretty hard pressed to remember it now. At the end of dinner there was a VERY delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and blueberries. Definitely not vegan, but absolutely tasty. We also got some chances to ask questions about Sunwise.

Sunwise is part of an entire neighborhood co-housing project that was started in the 70’s called village homes. We were told that there are about 250 houses that make up the neighborhood. There are bike/walking paths and community gardens, and originally, I think the whole neighborhood was designed with an open/no fences plan. We were told that since the 70’s, property values in Davis have soared, and most of the houses now are occupied by single families who have since fenced themselves in and everyone else out. Apparently, Sunwise was started by ex-students who had lived in coop houses connected with the school and who had wanted to keep that community when they graduated. Now its the last housing cooperative left in the neighborhood. But what a house they have. The tour we got was short, but they have so many cool things going on. First, like any good co-op tour, we start in the kitchen:

All of the essentials, and a beautiful warm feeling as well. There’s also another pantry-like space where they’re brewing kombucha and have all sorts of canned food stuffs staring out at you from their jars. We then went up to the upper levels where all of the rooms are, and our host took us into her room, through her lofted bed area (yes thats right, lofts in a bunch of the bedrooms) and onto the roof. They have solar hot water and electricity, and we got an amazing look out onto their gardens. Gardens isn’t really a good word for it; it was more like a small farmlands adjacent to their house. Apparently each person has a set of “chores” for the month, and among them are gardening and taking care of the chickens. This apparently works for them, although it seems like gardening in that land could very quickly become a full time job. It was nighttime, so we didn’t get a very good look at the plants and such, but apparently they have a bunch of winter greens and cover crops at the moment, and a number of chickens. Yummm…..

Sunwise is a member of NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation). I recommend you check out the website if you’re interested in more information, but its basically an umbrella organization of cooperatives. In some cases, NASCO actually owns and helps manage the house. Zami, in Santa Cruz, also was a member of NASCO. People at Zami had talked about having some trouble negotiating with NASCO, to the point of worrying they were all going to be kicked out and their house basically wiped clean, but in Sunwise people had mostly good things to say about NASCO. They require that people living in the house make %80 or less of the median income in the area and no one can stay longer than 7 years. The rent is also much cheaper than most of the other living situations in Davis. The idea is to allow as many people as possible to experience cooperative living at Sunwise. Its a very interesting system, but I can definitely imagine the drama of having lived in a place for that long and knowing that you would be required to leave after a somewhat arbitrary period. A number of people had apparently just moved out after 7 years so it was a particularly relevant rule. There are so many cooperative houses and spaces in Davis, though, that it felt like the people that left were able to find similar homes nearby.

We were able to stay and chat for a while after our tour, but it was pretty clear that this being a weekday, people were ready for bed. We hung out around long enough for one of the members to give Tony a little mother Kombucha (I think they’re called Scobi?) to create his own at home. The house was definitely the kind of place one could get really comfortable in and maybe never leave (or at least for 7 years), but we knew we had to make it to Seattle in a couple days and couldn’t linger too long here. I have a feeling we’ll be back eventually.


January 17, 2011

Dumpster Score #10: Davis

Village Bakery: 3 black garbage bags full of nothing but bread.

January 16, 2011

Food Not Bombs & the Tri-Coops, Davis

Last Sunday Max and I ate with the Davis Food Not Bombs, an international anti-war organization (for lack of better description; each “chapter” is fairly independent) that cooks donated vegetarian food and serves it in a public place to whomever wants or needs it.  There are a few FNB groups in LA, and the USC chapter cooked out of the TTT’s house for a while.  Today we helped pick up and sort, cook, and serve food with Davis FNB.

Davis FNB cooks out of one of the University of California, Davis student co-ops, Pierce, which is one of three co-operative student houses in the same area (collectively known as the Tri-Coops).  The land between the three 14-person houses is full of gardens, chickens, and bike racks, all in various states of use and disuse.  The houses have solar panels, though they are also on the grid.  Since our time at the Tri-Coops was spent frantically cooking veggie soup and apple sauce  (alongside three other people respectively making veggie stir-fry, pumpkin soup, and caramelized onions) we didn’t get to meet any community members.  According to one of the long-time FNBers, students who lived in the co-ops used to help cook, but don’t any more.  I got the feeling that, unlike USC FNB, this group is always looking for extra help.

Max and I weren’t really planning on visiting student co-ops, so this was an unexpected community visit.  Davis FNB rotates among several intentional communities’ kitchens from week to week, including N Street Cohousing (see previous Community post).  Pierce, where we cooked today, seemed like a familiar place: walls and doors painted in bright colors with nature themes, silly magnets all over the fridge, cats underfoot, bulk-sized containers of rice and sugar (and nutritional yeast), labels on everything.  One of the FNBers said that he moved to Davis because of the intentional communities, so he was surprised to find that most students don’t want to live in them.  He said that he is apparently in the minority “counter culture” here, even though it seems obvious to him that co-operative living would be great for students.  The Tri-Coops, which are on campus, are apparently always looking for new members, and sometimes have empty rooms.

We finished cooking around 1 PM, and brought the food (with four bikes and one car, a good ratio) to nearby Central Park.  Davis FNB has discovered an excellent and convenient way to serve their food: they use buckets (that have lids and handles) as their serving plates, so that the food can be transported easily.  Central Park is the location of Davis’ popular Farmer’s Market, which is held twice a week in the summer.  There are outdoor sinks and a large covered area to accommodate the market, so it’s a very convenient place for FNB meals (all the dishes can be washed on site).  Lots of people showed up to eat, everyone seemed quite satisfied, and just as things were starting to wind down, a woman drove up and handed us two large cheese pizzas as an extra donation.  We biked home with left-over apple sauce, stir-fry, and fruit salad precariously bungeed to our racks.  Job well done.   🙂


Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry
in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment.
With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?


January 15, 2011

The Domes/ Baggins End, Davis

The Domes/ Baggins End is an intentional community on the UC Davis campus consisting of 14 fiberglass dome houses constructed in the 1970s as a student project.  Two people live in each dome and the community is technically just for students, though many others have spent time there.  We only visited the Domes one night for a party, and the dance floor was in a yurt, which, I have to say, is an excellent place for a dance floor (think disco ball and dance lights on a circular ceiling!)

Each dome is a complete house, with lofts, beds, kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc.  They look a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside!  There are gardens, a greenhouse, and an awesome fire pit outside.

This month there will be a meeting at UC Davis to determine the future of the Domes.  Some people think that they have reached the end of their lifespans.  I’m not sure how run-down they are or what specific problems they have, but there are plenty of people in Davis fighting to keep them standing and the community alive.  One of the issues currently on the table is that they need to be made wheelchair accessible — this is an important issue for many of the UC Davis housing co-ops.


January 12, 2011


My grandmother makes incredible traditional mochi, a Japanese dessert.  Mochi is NOT ice-cream, as some might think. (There is a product that’s recently become popular in natural food stores in the US that is balls of mochi with ice-cream inside.)  Here is my grandmother’s famous mochi recipe, which we finally got around to making.  We got to patronize the one “Oriental food market” in Davis to get the mochiko flour and the red bean paste.    -Rachel

Mix well:
5 cups mochiko flour
1 box (1-lb.) dark brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda

Add and mix well:
1 can tsubushian (sweetened adzuki bean paste) plus 1 can water
1 can coconut milk plus another can of water

Pour into well-greased 9 x 13″ or smaller pan
Sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool, then cut into pieces and enjoy!