Thursday, September 4, 2008

Treasures from Slow Food Nation

Ghee, apricot jam, heirloom potatoes, pistachios and almonds, a Gravenstein apple, Massa organic brown rice, and a hunk of goat cheese — put them all together and what have you got? A suitcase that’s four pounds over the limit when Jacqueline and I flew back to Dallas with the treasures we bought at the Farmer’s Market at Slow Food Nation in San Francisco.

It was tempting to add to our loot by surreptitiously swiping fresh figs and zucchini flowers and melons from among the dozens of crops growing in the Slow Food Victory Garden. A sense of honor (plus tight security) dissuaded us from helping ourselves. Planted in the plaza directly in front of City Hall on July 1, by opening morning the Victory Garden’s fruits and vegetables were ready for generous distribution to the needy.

The Victory Garden and Farmers’ Market were at one end of town, in Civic Center Plaza. At the other end of town, on the bay between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, was the pavilion at Fort Mason where the Slow Food Tasting event was held. All four 3-hour tastings (Saturday and Sunday, afternoon and evening) were sold out weeks in advance.

An hour b
efore the doors opened the line of ticket-holders was several hundred people long and snaked two hundred yards down the waterfront, turned right, and continued well past Greens Restaurant, the 29-year-old temple of vegetarian delight. And the crowds continued to build.

For a few minutes immediately after the doors opened it was possible to get to a food stall without having to wait in an additional line. But the overflowing crowd soon resulted in masses of Slow Fooders trudging slowly forward in lockstep for a glass of red wine or a three-cheese sample plate, jostling each other in the slow, step-by-step-by-step procession. Curiously, samples at the booze bar were free (including the truly dangerous 140-proof absinthe that years ago was banned and vilified) while cheese, wine, olive oil, coffee and other ordinary staples were two ”Slow Food bucks” each — two bucks on top of a $65 ticket to stand in line to spend it. No bargain here. Perhaps three hours of sporadic noshing was sufficient to satisfy the hunger that builds up while waiting in a slow line for tiny samples, but we were ready for a real meal once the Tasting event was over.

Dick and Jacqueline Grote

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