One time...

One time, six years ago, when I first moved to San Francisco and joined the outreach community that I am still part of, some friends and I were taking a turn cooking food for kids on the street, and we made such a big mess that there was even food on the ceiling. When people came to peek inside the kitchen door they just shook their heads and walked away quickly. Pots and pans were stacked on every available spot.

It started in the morning, when our house community got together to talk about the day; what everyone was up to, who was doing what. Scott volunteered to cook and I opted to help him and then hand out food later. As we were in the kitchen getting ready to start, someone else pointed out that we had a million boxes of All Bran sitting on the top shelf. Leilah, who was notorious for having food thrown at her after she handed it out on the street, decided to use it all up and make a bran loaf. This was the recipe she made up that day:

Put all the boxes of All Bran in a bowl
Pour government Pineapple juice in until mushy
Pour into a large, deep cake pan and bake until you remember it is still in the oven

More later on how the loaf turned out.

Scott decided to make Thai Curry, and I thought I'd make a Cream of Ham soup, since we had plenty of heavy cream and plenty of ham (this was in our food bank days, when our friend Papa was the main shopper, which meant that we always had lots of pork and thick cream). It took us hours. We had food everywhere. Everywhere. When we went to give it out, people had some issues. Mostly they had issues with Scott's curry, which one man claimed gave him a heart attack. It was so spicy people were sobbing in our wake. Everyone loved my soup, though, which was the more likely food to hand heart attacks out. It tasted exactly like hot ham ice cream.

The next day, having tons of curry left, we got creative. My superstar (not yet) husband helped us to make the enormous pot of leftover curry into a thousand Thai burritos. Then we got creative with Leilah's bran loaf. It was not loaf-like in the slightest, having remained mostly liquid in the center, so we had the brilliant idea of making it into a type of dessert "ball." We formed the gooey bran paste into a ball and then rolled it in brown sugar. We put the resulting mess in a plastic bag and I explained over and over to people that it was a type of "muffin." Having tens of thousands of nuclear Thai burritos to hand out caused us to have to leave our neighborhood on Haight Street and head to the Mission to find more homeless people to be victims of our generosity. We spent the night trying to convince people to take it.

I did not enter the kitchen again for a long time. But don't get the wrong picture from this story. For years our community had many amazing chefs who served food on the street from our red wagon with cheers and whistles in response. That unfortunate day was just a rookie day, I guess. And where are the cooks now? Scott is currently great at Thai cooking, and spice wise has toned it down a little. I'm happy to say that Leilah is now an accomplished cook and made the best Passover meal that I have ever experienced, with plenty of lamb shanks for everyone. The bran loaf was six years ago and she has learned much since then. After having a few burnt grilled cheeses thrown at her head by angry gutter punks.

And like I've mentioned before, I have a world famous Chicken Soup. I'm still a little messy in the kitchen, though.