Rising sharply above a rust-stained receptacle, the pungent scent of decomposing produce, rancid milk and putrid French loaves signifies dinnertime for a few trendsetters in town. Referred to as Freeganism, this newest ultra-hyper-chic eating plan is a descendent of the Atkin’s diet and sister to the Cranberry Juice Fat Flush that is based on turning one man’s trash into another’s bacteria-laced treasure. Through taking the concept of recycling to new heights, Freeganism has emerged as the cheapest and easiest method of preserving the environment while also dining al fresco and likely a la mort.

This week, On the Menu takes a dive into the hottest dumpsters surrounding the greater Santa Barbara area to give you a taste of the high life.

The Most for Your Compost
668 Pardall Rd., Goleta
Phone: (800) 555-6047
Price: Zilch
Hours: 24 hours a day/7 days a week
Prime Diving Hours: early morning & late evening

A bead of sweat glistens fiercely on River Hummingbird’s bronzed forehead as he scales the outer wall of a Goleta trash receptacle. River has been in this business for years; however, it wasn’t until dumpster diving was dubbed Freeganism and subsequently became cool that Mr. Hummingbird wanted to discuss the issue. Sure that everything becomes popular at one time or another, Hummingbird waited passively until dumpster diving got its anticipated 15 minutes of fame. As a passionate tree lover and vehement anti-consumerist, Hummingbird also explained that he frequents the receptacles not out of necessity but rather for political and social motives.

“It’s a beautiful cycle, man. I get free food, save the environment, and climb the social ladder all in one quick jump,” Hummingbird said..

According to Hummingbird, dumpster diving used to be something he saved for the wee hours of the morning or the pitch-black darkness of night. However, Hummingbird now unabashedly leaps into trash bins exclusively during daylight and high student traffic hours. Armed with a stool, a few grocery bags, a ferret and other undisclosed items, Hummingbird takes off his shirt and begins his daily work.

When told that removing his clothes was a smart technique to avoid garment staining or smell, Hummingbird replied with this disturbing comment:

“I take my shirt off for them UCSB ladies,” the feathered flying creature exclaimed. “You’d be surprised to see how many of ’em chickadees can appreciate a cultured and fit Hummingbird.”

Hummingbird’s favorite dumpsters to frequent include the waste containers outside of Freebird’s World Burritos and Super Cuca’s Mexican food. Since the age of seven, Hummingbird has had a weakness for the exotic flavors and diarrhea-inducing spices of our neighbors to the South.

“On a good day, you can find a burrito that has a bit of mold on it,” Hummingbird shared kindly. “It may sound nasty as Britney Spears naked on a waterbed, but mold really brings out the flavor of the guacamole. You gotta trust me on this one, you gotta.”

Disgusted with Hummingbird’s imagery, On the Menu decided to venture off and find another dumpster – as well as another story – to tell.

T.G.I. Freegan
928 State St., Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 776-2968
Price: $20 (for those who pay)
$0 (for those who swoop)
Hours: Sun. 9:30 a.m. – Midnight
Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.

In the southwest northernmost corner of T.G.I. Freegan, executive chef David “Dysentery” Ferry is fast at work meticulously preparing the world famous dishes served at his establishment. In the northeast southernmost corner of T.G.I. Freegan, Freeganists are assembling to exploit Ferry’s hard work by refusing to pay for the food they have sneakily consumed.

At T.G.I.F., once paying patrons have abandoned their filet mignons, spaghetti bologneses and jambalayas, Freeganists swoop in to pick up the slack and finish off these first-class meals.

According to Freeganist Verta Sprout, the scientific and elaborate Freeganist method of – excuse the Freeganist jargon – “freeloading” works to keep the Earth in better condition. Somehow.

“It’s not about being cheap. It’s about the environment,” Sprout, donning a couture fur coat, corrected.

Sprout said that she is usually very systematic about what she eats and where she sits when out on the town.

“I totally look for anorexic girls on dates,” Sprout said. “They’re the best targets because they won’t ever finish what they eat, take my word for it. They try to order really tasty things just to impress their obnoxious boyfriends, but then they just sit in front of their food and daydream about Nicole Richie’s figure.”

According to Ferry, the Freeganists who enter his restaurant are not welcome. Ferry – a recent immigrant to the United States – was unable to fully articulate his position on the matter in proper English.

“No want them,” Ferry muttered. “No quiero.”

When asked what his feelings on Freeganists were, Ferry replied ” Burritos.”

When asked what his favorite menu item at T.G.I.F. is, Ferry answered “No.”

When asked what her favorite item to steal at T.G.I.F is, Sprout shouted, rather unnecessarily, “Burritos!”

It seems that even through the many differences between the ideologies of Ferry and Sprout, both have a fascinating obsession with the Mexican wrapped wonder.

However, in order to thwart future Freeganists from enjoying Chef Ferry’s delicacies without paying, the chef has promised to install a landmine system surrounding T.G.I.F. According to Ferry, the system is in place to prevent Freeganists from continuing with their traditional practice of “freeloading.”

“I hope we get every one of those fuckers,” Ferry asserted eloquently.

Bert’s Dump
The corner of Albertson’s and back lot
Phone: (617) 861-3962
Price: Nada
Hours: All day every day

Located where the back parking lot and parking lot of the Storke Albertsons is a quaint blue and white dumpster, with its own distinct style, which locals have dubbed “Bert’s Dump.”

Bert’s may be more low-key than many of the eateries surrounding it, like Albertsons and L & L’s Hawaiian BBQ, but what it lacks in popularity it makes up for in style. Freegans around the Goleta area frequent the joint regularly, one of who, UCSB student Wade Munson, raves about the food.

“I can’t believe the amount of fruits and vegetables Bert’s always has,” Munson said. “It’s usually only slightly spoiled, always healthy, and keeps me looking hot.”

While some dine at the place for the abundance and quality of the food, others, like housemates Tim Eves, Neal Duggleby and Scott Gaylord, do it for the fellowship.

“I really like the eclectic group of people who hang out around Bert’s,” Eves said.

“It’s brought us all closer together, sorting through and then eating the food every night, you know?” Duggleby said.

“I would rather be forced to change my last name than be forced to stop eating here,” Gaylord added.

Bert’s receives new loads about three times a day, so be sure to have plenty of time to spare if you’re planning on dining there, as you’ll probably have to wait around between dump times. For many, though, it’s worth the wait.

“It’s delicious and healthy,” second-year Lyndzie Spycher said. “The body definitely approves.”

– Brianna Tabler and Nadia Ismail contributed to this article