foodbloggers at the food bank

February 14th, 2007

Ever go bobbing for apples in a huge plastic crate? How about filtering out bad oranges, revving up your pitching arm to toss them into a giant composting container? Last Saturday, thirty-odd foodbloggers got together at the San Francisco Food Bank to do just that. The San Francisco Food Bank is an enormous clearing house for food that is distributed to charitable organizations throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. Huge amounts of food come through the food bank every day, all of which needs to be sorted and packaged into cardboard boxes. These boxes are then stacked on a flat, wrapped in plastic to keep them in place, and finally loaded onto trucks for distribution. The whole operation is run by a combination of employees, part-time volunteers, and sporadic volunteers. It’s remarkable to see such a dedicated, hard-working staff process and sort all those massive crates of food.

Our task last Saturday was to sort and package green apples, oranges, and frozen corn cobs. This involved putting together and taping the boxes, sorting the good fruit from the bad, packaging the fruit, taping the boxes shut, and stacking the boxes neatly on a wodden flat.

We foodbloggers spread around the crates of fruit and went straight to work. Some people taped boxes, others lifted and arranged the boxes. Some were especially adept at picking out the bad fruit and throwing them dodgeball-style into the composting crate—I nearly got nailed three times. Our efficient work paid off: the kind folks at the Food Bank said we managed our task much faster than they had expected.

Afterwards, we headed off to Yield Wine Bar for some great nibbles and wine served by Sam—barmaid for a day—looking cool in her officer’s cap. Organizers Amy and Sam provided delicious cheeses and baguette slices, the Fatted Calf gave fed us thin-sliced ham, and Poco Dolce brought us their little sweet/salty wafers of chocolate. (As both Fatted Calf and Poco Dolce are right down the road from Yield, this was micro-local cuisine, as someone pointed out.)

But the stars of the show were the sunny chutneys and spicy Spanish chorizo courtesy of Alison McQuade and Ore Dagan of Fra’Mani Salumi, respectively. I’m not usually a great fan of chutneys as I tend to find them too sweet. But McQuade’s Celtic chutneys are something else entirely. These are complex chutneys brimming with taste and texture. You can’t pick out any one individual flavor–there’s the zing of vinegar, a ginger kick, and a warm, brown sugar sweetness. But there’s so much more, and damned if you can figure out exactly what else is in that chutney. All you know is it tastes fresh and alive, and goes very well with cheese and bread.

The Spanish chorizo was brought to us from Fra’Mani salumi, by way of Ore Dagan, chef and Responsabile Produzione. I could not get enough of it, but sadly, this particular salumi is not yet available in stores. I’ll wager that a small popular movement will soon begin protesting the absence of this chorizo from local shops. Slogans like “Chorizo now!” and “Fra’Mani, not war!” will become ubiquitous. So please, Ore, bring on the chorizo before you have an angry mob of hungry foodbloggers bearing poultry forks and carving knives.

You can find McQuade’s chutneys at the Cowgirl Creamery retail shop in San Francisco, and other fine shops (how about some East Bay locations, Alison? Market Hall, perhaps?). Fra’Mani salumi is sold at the Berkeley Bowl and the Pasta Shop in the East Bay.

Many, many thanks to Amy Sherman and Sam Breach for having organized this wonderful event. It was great fun getting together with other foodbloggers, particularly for a worthy cause.

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