Embrace Your Inner Seagull

Scavenging Whenever The Opportunity Arises (And Being Prepared To Do So)

You know that saying, "You eat like a horse?"

That horse is me. I am that horse. Someone in seventeen-hundred-whatever saw into the future and called me a horse (an endearing term, I think, when horses were a main form of transportation) and made up that saying when they saw how much I eat on a daily basis. I'm not just being dramatic, either - coworkers, friends, and my grandmother have all told me I eat ridiculous quantities of food. Part of it is nutritional deficiency, I'm sure; as much as I try to eat healthy, the fact is that I'm a student making minimum wage, and vegetable are fricking expensive. Someday I'll earn above $10 an hour and get to shop the crap out of the farmer's market, but today is not that day.

Did you know that you're probably starving? Even if you're 200 pounds overweight and eat like me (the horse), your cells are probably screaming for things you're not giving them. Imagine your insides are babies. Err, wait, imagine your cells are little baby heads? This is a terrible explanation, but work with me on this. Your trillions of body cells are babies, okay? Imagine that. These babies are being little shits and making a huge racket, so you give them a cup of water to drink, because they're not pooping, so they're probably hungry. They drink the stuff (they know the importance of being hydrated, after all), but they continue to make a fuss because they want MILK, and water is not milk. But you keep giving them water. Eventually their screaming drives you berserk because they never stop (and that would get really annoying). That's kind of what happens every day when you don't eat well. Your body goes, "I want vitamin B! I want carotenoids! I want fructose that doesn't come from purple Koolaid!" and you say, "Too bad! LOL! Have some meat and overcooked broccoli and french fries!" So they make you fat. The little bastards.

If you're a person who eats "well", you're probably a bit offended right now. Sorry. But the fact is our living bodies love living food. The more raw or single-ingredient food you can plug into yourself (minus meat - it takes forever to go through your super-long digestive tract and makes your insides all acidic), the better off you'll be. I'm no raw foodie (it makes me too cold and I'm not especially fond of crunchy food), but it's well-known scientific fact that basic - and especially uncooked - fruits and veggies have more of the "milk" your guts want.

Which comes back to me being a starving student. I can't afford the living food I function best on. I eat like a horse, but only because I'm trying to pump myself with nutrients I can't get from breads and junk food. I - and my screaming baby cells - are constantly hungry. Therefore I make a point of searching out things I wouldn't be able to consume normally. If I'm eating in a restaurant I'll order something full of veggies, and make sure I take all my leftovers home if I don't finish. I'll eat off other people's plates (at my own table, okay, not just at random). I'll fill up on the fancy pre-main course bread or salad.

I grab good food anytime I get the chance. Recently I went to a family potluck, and my family is huge (my mom has 97 first cousins) so there was a lot of food made, and therefore a lot of food left over. Not only did I spend a good chunk of my time at the party standing by the dinner table eating fruit, but I purposely brought Tupperware with me to pack leftovers in. I came home with a bowl of couscous, half a ham, some chicken breast, and a full container of whatever I could snatch from the veggie tray. These things provided me with two salads, two lunches, a breakfast, and a giant pot of soup. For free.

Most times the leftovers from parties (especially staff parties) get thrown out when everyone goes home. I make an effort to be the first (and often only - what's with that?) person to ask, "Can I take some of this?"

 I am a seagull in horses' clothing. Err, fur. Whatever.

Test time! What would you pick from this spread to bring home?

When you can't afford fresh food, that food becomes a huge treat. I can grab 36 cookies for $6 at the grocery store, but a handful of blackberries costs the same amount. When you have $50 to feed two people for two weeks... well, you say "screw you" to both options and buy a $3 pack of rice. But the point remains that fruit (and for that matter, vegetables, especially when you try to buy from within your own country) is a luxury to me. So when I find myself at a function of some sort, I take what I can. I come prepared. I don't expect to get anything, but the general rule is "ask and ye shall receive". This doesn't just apply to berries, either. Sandwich quarters, chicken bones, bread, sad-looking veggies from the supermarket vegetable tray someone bought last second - all of these leftovers are perfectly good to eat. Even the yucky-looking stuff, if you know what to do with it.

Do yourself a favor, though: a leftover plate of Oreos may be delicious, but it's only going to make you sick. Junk food is the water your baby cells don't want. Whole foods - things that were pulled out of the ground or picked off a tree and don't have ingredients listed - are the kind of things you want to seek out. They are the "milk". These are the things that are good for you, and, nine times out of ten, they'll be the things that are most simple and most expensive. They are the luxury. Your body thinks of good food in the same way my Dad does: "You can have as much salad as you want." I eat like a horse, but I haven't gained weight in years.

Developed countries waste more than a third of what they buy in food. Feed yourself and help stop the waste. Eat like a horse. Be a seagull.

Step by step:

1) If you know you're going somewhere where there will be leftovers, bring containers to put them in. That may sound Crazy Old Baglady-esque, but the party hosts will be more willing to dole out scraps if they don't have to donate dishes.

2) Grab whatever you know you'll eat. Even stuff that looks shoddy. Old veggies and less than prime cuts of meat can be made into stock for soup!

3) Don't whip out the Tupperware right away. That's rude. Fill up on as many whole foods as you can during the event and ask to take things home after the food table has been mostly abandoned.

4) Grabbing free tiny tubs of butter/jam/peanut butter from restaurants is not frowned upon. If might make you look a little desperate if you scoop handfuls into your bag, but hey, it's another peanut butter toast breakfast you don't have to pay for.

Yours Hungrily,
- Leah

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