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Killing the Vibe at the Dump / Barriers to Entry
A new regime at the dump, menus, recipes and eating notes
Hello! My name is Rebecca May Johnson, I am a writer and cook and this is my Substack. This week’s newsletter is about barriers to feeling effective at the dump, then menus recipe and eating notes.
Killing the Vibe at the Dump / Barriers to Entry
The man at the dump gave me a flyer about a new regime. He paraphrased what it said. Soon we will not be able to turn up at the dump when a window of time suddenly appears in the day. We will have to book a slot in advance. I said, why? The man who gave me the flyer said the system works too well for them! I agreed. There’s never a problem or too long a wait going to the dump. When I discussed it with some friends, they said it would probably be so they could employ fewer people. The man who gave me the flyer said if the sun comes out and a guy mows his lawn, he won’t be able to just come with his grass clippings. We have to go to the dump to recycle a mountain of cardboard, or allotment weeds, or when we forget to put the rubbish bins out – typically in a sudden energetic moment when we feel able to climb out of domestic chaos. I feel very put out by the idea of the new system! One of the things going to the dump gives me is a rare feeling of effectiveness.
At Sam’s mother’s house a large pane of glass being used as cold frame was blown shut by a gust of wind and smashed. We could not take the debris to the dump as we do not live in the area, and do not therefore have proof of address which is required in the county she lives in. Sam’s mother was away so we had to leave a large bag of broken glass for her to return to when she arrived home and she would have had to go to the dump instead.
At the dump near Sam’s father’s flat there is a requirement to show proof of identity and residency to enter and deposit items for recycling or disposal. Recently we were clearing his flat after he died so it could be returned to the housing cooperative. However, we could not take items that could not be donated to the dump. Instead, we had to drive various large items for several hours to the dump where we live and dispose of there.
At the weekend my parents came to help me weed on the allotment and Sam went to the dump with several sacks of weeds and various defunct electrical items from his dad’s flat. It was the first visit in a booked ‘slot’. Even though they had record of our registration number and the time we were supposed to arrive they insisted Sam show them the email where I had made the booking before he was permitted to enter. So he phoned me and I emailed him the email and then he showed them the email and they allowed him in.
I went later in the day with several sacks of weeds in an additional timeslot I had booked. It was my first time visiting the dump under the new system. I was early and worried they would not allow me in, and so apologised at the entrance for being 8 minutes early. They allowed me in anyway, but I must say, the vibe at the dump was totally dead. Maybe anxiety caused by the system had set in. On a sunny Sunday afternoon after a long period of bad weather there would usually be lots of people, but there was only one other car which soon left. I wondered how my allotment neighbour who is very old and who does not have the internet would manage – they encourage people to book via an online system. There is a phone number, but it is only open during certain hours. Only two staff were working, half the number than before. A radio was playing loudly but the sound bounced around and made the absence of the usual energy more apparent. The staff and I rattled around, too conspicuous.
When the dump is busy it’s an exciting and strangely intimate space. People are shy but full of purpose as they carry the items that they wish to leave behind out of boot of their cars. Chipped furniture, broken toys, the possessions of the recently deceased, stained mattresses, old computers. Objects once embedded in lives – touched and looked upon and sometimes loved – are carried out in armfuls to become anonymous. I would look at the weeds deposited just before mine in the green waste container and speculate about the site from which they had been removed, the reasons that ivy had grown so thick and gnarly. Before, on such a day, people would help each other carry heavy items up the steps to the containers, the dump workers would talk to each other and make jokes, often including visitors, who would also often see someone they knew by chance and have a conversation about their life. A tangible sense of fellowship emerged in the short minutes spent with near strangers. The week of the changes to the dump regulation came into force, I received a ballot card for elections in May, which for the first time, included a statement about the new requirement to have voter ID. A coincidence, sure, but I felt the creep of barriers that limit people’s ability to feel effective in shaping their environment.
Menus, Recipes, and Eating Notes
A quick two course dinner:
Boiled charlotte potatoes tossed with butter, vinegar, capers, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper.
Roasted caramelised chicory – cut into quarters lengthways, fried in a small amount of oil until bronzed all over in a cast iron pan, then a few pieces of unsalted butter added with alt and pepper and covered with a piece of baking paper and baked until soft through in the oven.
Apples baked with a quick sponge topping. Cooking apples (sharp) peeled and cored and cut into eighths, then cooked for 5 minutes with a few tablespoons of golden caster sugar, cinnamon, a little lemon and a few sultanas until beginning to be soft. Then put into an enamel dish around 2 inches deep of apple, with a simple sponge spread quite thinly on top and baked until cooked through – around 18 minutes in total. Served with double cream.
Lentils cooked in water with garlic, a dried chilli, a bay leaf and then diced potatoes added. Served with warmed-through sauerkraut and a frankfurter. Later that day, I made a pasta sauce with the leftover lentils for me and Sam. I fried sliced garlic in olive oil, added the lentils and potato and some of its cooking liquid, and some blanched greens cooked with the pasta and tossed with the pasta and topped with plentiful parmesan.
One egg whisked with spring onions and a dash of soy sauce and tipped into a hot cast iron pan with a little oil in. It spreads out and forms a thin pancake. When it’s lightly browned I flip it then cut in half and put it layers on top of crushed avocado and piece of bacon on top.
A hot tuna sandwich and a pickle. A small tin of tuna with half a small onion, diced, some dashes of tabasco, a handful of grated cheese, and a tablespoon of mayonnaise, mix well, then load into lightly toasted sandwich, which is then fried in the pan. On this occasion there was leftover butter from frying eggs in the pan so I used that, pressing down on the sandwich as it cooks to get the heat into the filling. I turned it when it was browned.
A first visit to the café-canteen at the Quaker meeting house on Euston road (open to all – I am not a Quaker) to have lunch with a friend I had not seen in several months. It was so good! There was the choice of two quiches – served hot, roasted potatoes with skin on, green salad, coleslaw, noodles with vegetables, and soup, as well as sandwiches and pastries. I had broccoli and stilton quiche, potatoes, salad, and coleslaw with a cup of tea. My friend had similar with a fizzy drink. We hugged, we cried, we loved our lunch.
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