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Edible Nonfiction: Today's pick

How I Learned to Cook by Yutaka Dirks

On my meandering journey into adulthood, newly untethered from the comforts of my suburban family home, I ate a lot of garbage. My roommates and I found free meals around town for years. We just had to climb in dumpsters to get them.

There were a couple of places we'd visit a few hours after closing time. The health food store and the bakery. And, if we were desperate, the Tim's. I'd worked nights at a donut shop for two years and eaten enough apple fritters to last me five lifetimes.

The Eiffel Tower Bakery was hit and miss.  When you hit, it was heaven. Pain au Chocolat, double-bagged all by themselves. Just waiting to be lightly toasted and eaten with petite bites between sips of steaming cafe allonge. When you missed, it was rock-hard baguette, garnished with dust bunnies and coffee grinds.

Our menu wasn't restricted to quick breakfasts. The Natural Foods dumpster was a cornucopia of dried legumes, bottled fruit smoothies and still-fresh organic vegetables. 

Two Argentine lemons gone mushy-white in a bag of ten? They'd toss it. Half a crate of boxed quinoa met the tine end of the forklift? The whole crate, straight to the dumpster. Mint leaf-tips gone brown? Ditto.    

The smell wasn't natto-pungent like you'd think, at least not in winter. The cold kept the vegetables chilled. All you really had to worry about was avoiding the run-off from an occasional plastic wrapped organic free-range chicken.

That was how I learned to cook. We'd shuffle back to our house with our bounty. I’d wash the vegetables; check for colour, firmness, mold. Pull out our garage sale cookware. Find the cookbook and search the index.

Quinoa. Lemon. Mint.     

Page 27.     

Morrocan Quinoa Stew.

Yutaka Dirks is from Toronto, ON

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