Monday, December 26, 2005

Chicken-fried trash

A few nights ago, during an especially obnoxious run of deafening Old Navy and Verizon commercials, my wife Kara flipped on 20/20, a show that I had not seen in about fifteen years. I was shocked to see that after all that time, John Stossel’s mustache is still alive and well. If a nuclear winter happened tomorrow, all that would be left of the world is cockroaches and John Stossel’s mustache.

But what struck me as even more interesting than the facial hair of its correspondent was the show’s revelation about a movement known as freeganism. For those who haven’t already heard about freegans, they are otherwise regular people who have chosen to boycott the conventional economy, subsisting largely through a practice known as “urban foraging.” To the untrained eye, “urban foraging” looks a whole lot like “digging through the trash and eating food that other people threw out,” because that’s exactly what it is.

Freegans try to remove themselves as much as possible from the wastefulness of society, so they rummage around in other people’s garbage to find food that is still edible. They do this because garbage is free, unless you buy it at Brookstone’s, in which case it is expensive and probably vibrating. I don’t know if freegans have adopted an official mascot yet, but if they haven’t I think they should give serious consideration to the raccoon.

I hope that no freegans have ever starved because they were depending on finding leftover food in my trash. I can just picture a freegan at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night, pulling out unopened Capital One applications and empty cereal boxes.

“Don’t they ever cook?” the freegan would say weakly, crawling to the next driveway.

“Let me know if you find anything good. We're starving in here!” I’d call from the window.

It would be easy to make fun of people for eating trash, but I actually have a lot of respect for the sentiment behind freeganism. When I was a busboy back in high school, I found that one of the major perks of the job, besides the groupies, was the second dibs I got on some very choice pieces of post-consumer lemon-herb chicken. I’d only eat from the clean side, of course, not where the bites marks were. I have my standards.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at the vanguard of an entire philosophical movement. Readers of this column (me and my mom) will remember that I once ate Neil Armstrong’s leftover salmon, which might very well make me the first Space Freegan.

Right after the show ended, I turned to Kara and asked, “So if we ever get a cat, can we name it Sniffy Kerplonkus?”

Sniffy Kerplonkus is a great name for a hypothetical cat because, not only is it a very difficult name to say with any gravitas, but it is also the only remaining combination of letters in the universe that yields zero search results on Google.

To my disbelief, Kara actually agreed that Sniffy Kerplonkus is a fine name for a cat. The only reason I’m telling you this now is that I need to have it in writing, so that on the off chance that we ever really do get a cat, Kara can’t back out later. The ink cartridge for our printer ran out about three years ago, so it’s really much easier if it just shows up in the newspaper instead.

If you’re not going to eat the rest of that chicken leg, you can give it to Mike Todd online at


  1. And here I am, trying to give up my membership to the clean plate club... sheesh!

    Can you adopt these freegans?

  2. I can only imagine their shock and horror at the science experiments that show up in MY trash! EEEEeeeewwwww!

    So, freegan is the new PC name for dumpster divers, eh?

  3. Freegans? Really? wow - they would have a field day a my dumptser.... all kinds of goodies in there. lol

  4. I've got four words for you my friend....."Dr. Fluffernutter Meowington MD." That's my cats name....if I had a cat.

  5. So do Freegans spray the food with lysol first? Mmm, there's nothing I like better on my chicken bones than bits of soggy, snotty tissues. They call this free "food"? BTW, John Stossel and Geraldo Rivera do a timeshare thing with that mustache. Hey, my cat was a Freegan before we adopted her! This must be some kind of cosmic circle thing. You are eerie, Mike. Eerie.

  6. Do you realize what you've done?? Your column is now a google search result for Sniffy Kerplonkus!

    Talk about shooting your great idea in the proverbial foot.

    Love your writing -- this blog is great!