Where the Streets are Paved with Food

A few years ago, I wrote an article about how things really aren’t so bad, how we’ve made such huge strides in terms of recycling and general eco-awareness that we should feel good about ourselves. I cited our collective use of reusable bags at the supermarket and compared it to how the prior generation used to toss garbage out of their car windows on the highway. I painted a pretty rosy picture, and now I’d like to take it all back.

When I wrote that upbeat article, I was viewing the world from my natural habitat – my car. As I drove through the sparkling streets of our town, there were mailboxes and window boxes in my line of vision. At 30 miles an hour, you miss a few details.

But now I have a dog, and my new eye view is from the end of his leash. And because all of you also have dogs, this won’t be news to you. In fact, you may have collectively laughed at the cluelessness of my prior article. The truth is our streets are paved with food.

I walk my dog on the same loop every day. That loop might as well by the Sunday buffet at Westchester Country Club. My dog finds discarded McDonalds bags that contain perfectly good chicken nuggets. He’s come across a plastic container of Costco cookies, mostly in tact. He’s happened upon an entire pepperoni pizza just sitting there on the grass. I didn’t go so far as to check to see if it was still warm, but it looked delicious. One day he found an entire bran muffin on someone’s front lawn. That didn’t end well.

I spend most of these walks imagining how these treats came to litter the streets around my house. I imagine a woman leaving Costco with that delicious package of 12 chocolate chip cookies, excited to surprise her kids after school. Maybe she’ll just have one on the way home. That one turns into two and is looking frighteningly like three. She realizes she can’t be trusted around so much lard and goodness. In a panic, she tosses the rest out her car window and flees.

A child asks his mom to get him a muffin from Le Pain Quotedien. He’s imagining blueberry or cinnamon. The well-meaning mom shows up with bran. Maybe she’s the same one who can’t be trusted around cookies and is trying to model good choices. Her son takes one look at that bran muffin and decides he’ll chuck it in the bushes on his way to school. With any luck, he’ll come across a few cookies in someone’s driveway.

The pizza remains a mystery to me. Who leaves a whole pizza on the side of the road? It might be a lovers’ game. One sends a secret message: I’m leaving you a gift under the shrubbery on the northwest corner of Forest and Manursing. The lover arrives to find two slices missing, compliments of my dog. Romance fini.

It’s bad enough that my dog spends the morning grazing around the neighborhood, eating everyone’s discarded junk food. What’s worse is that he likes to bring the food home to eat. I have to stay alert as he drags a McDonald’s bag into my house to dissect it in private. In my living room. One false move and there’s a punctured ketchup packet on my white rug, perfect for dipping his 10 piece chicken nuggets.

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