There were a bunch of us at the Marco Polo Saloon last night. We were drinking beer, putting down shots and eating fried chicken (also know as "conducting newspaper business"), when conversation turned, as it so often does, to dumpster diving.
It seems that, before my time, some of the prime hunting grounds for those looking for fresh(ish) bread for free were the dumpsters behind or outside the various locations of the Essential Baking Company. The Wallingford location seemed to be a favorite--a kind of carb-y cornucopia for those willing to pop the lids and get past the notion that they were basically eating trash.
But just recently, Essential opened up a new cafe/bakery/production facility right in Georgetown, at 5601 1st Avenue, and some of us were curious about whether or not the pickings there would be as fruitful. Being good reporters (and already a few beers in), we decided to find out.Short answer: Yes. There are five or six color-coded dumpsters inside the wire and around the left-hand side of the facility. Being too lazy to hop the barbed wire, we simply walked around behind the place, past the parking lots, and found one of the side gates open. Just past that were the goods--two tan dumpsters full of bagged rustic loaves, good, soft sourdough boules and long French baguettes in their paper sleeves, bags of bagels still in plastic. There were also a few junk loaves of jalapeno bread (rings, actually, like a coffee cake) that'd obviously been tossed for good reason (they smelled off and were dry and crumbly to the touch) and plenty of paper waste, but still, score, right?
Well, yes and no. The Essential dumpsters that actually had edible bread in them had been tagged NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. And you wanna know what's a funny sound? Three young journalists all spitting out mouthfuls of bread at the same time because they didn't notice that sign until after they'd decided to sample the freebies.
Come to find, the stuff in the dumpsters at Essential is tagged for feedlot use--to be fed to hungry pigs and cows and chickens and whatnot. And technically, going in and taking it for yourself is stealing (since Essential gets paid for the stuff they send out to the critters).
Still, the choice is yours. Me? I've got an expense account, so I don't need to go hunting through the trash for a sample of Essential's goods. I can walk right in the front door any time I want and have my corporate sugar daddies foot the bill. But I do like the notion getting something for nothing as much as anyone (and getting good, artisan bread for free from a place that usually charges around $4 or $5 a loaf makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside), so if I weren't me? Well, I might seriously consider making Essential's dumpsters part of my nightly wanderings. And I am curious about other spots in the city where Seattle's freegans, free-cyclers and dumpster divers congregate for the best gets.
Oh, and for those of you out there looking to score even more free eats from the rolling snack boxes? Check out wayfaring.com where someone has already started putting together a map of all the best diving spots in and around the city (the new Essential location is already on there) and someone else has broken out some of the best spots in the U District (though these don't appear to be food-related).