First off: GO RAIN!!! I love this deluge.
So, you can call me Professor Carpenter now. I’m teaching two classes at University of San Francisco this semester, and sometimes the students do call me professor, and I don’t hear them because that can’t be me, right? I don’t have a Ph.D, so normally it would be hard to get a gig teaching at the college level, but USF took a chance on me, and I am so grateful.
I’ve talked about the writing class–called Tapping the Apocalypse–here on this blog already, but the other class is called Community Garden Outreach, and you know what? It kicks ass. Basically I just coordinate helping the students build community.
Everyone talks about building community as an ideal and these days, universities are figuring out that students need, want, crave, to learn how to actually do that. Our mode is to use food to engage the students and community outside the classroom. The first step is to tell the students that they will be sourcing/harvesting/gleaning enough food to feed 60 people at a free community dinner. Students then scampered to farmer’s markets at the end of the day and asked for donations, they harvested food from the student garden, they went to Rainbow Grocery Food Co-op to collect the fixings for a vegetarian meal. It’s amazing how gracious everyone was, especially the farmers at the markets.
Then we met at St. Cyprian’s church near campus to cook up the food in their kitchen. Nothing makes friendships faster than cooking together in a big group. After some gentle food safety and basic beautiful food rules from chef Jessica Theroux, it was showtime. “Go! We gotta feed 60 people tonight!” I yelled (my role was to be Gorden Ramsey, if you can imagine that.)
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. Did they really know how to make pasta for a large group? Would the soup suck? Would the salad be soggy? Would anyone come to the dinner? By 6pm, it was clear the students had made an amazing meal–crostini with herbs from the garden, potato/rutabaga soup, an amazingly beautiful green salad, pasta with greens and broccoli.
And then the people came: old and young, rich and poor, food snobs, vegans, freegans, students, faculty members, clergy members. It was truly amazing. They ate all the food up. They talked. They hugged. People met each other, and socialized, and loved being part of something like this dinner. It made me wonder, what if we did this in all our communities, in our neighborhoods? Cooked dinner together, then ate as a group? Go here to see more photos.
I didn’t get to sit down and eat–too busy and nervous–but during clean up, one of the students gave me a bag of the pasta to eat on the bus ride home to Oakland. I snarfed half of it down–delicious with its sauce of olive oil, green onion, and broccoli. Then I saved the rest to eat with Frannie and Billy; they were going to be amazed. I can’t wait for the rest of dinners. If you want to come, the next dinner will be at St. Cyprian’s Church in San Francisco on Turk at Lyon; March 6, from 6-8pm. Mark your calendars, it’s really fun.
Oh, and I just wanted to say how honored I am to be working with Melinda Stone, David Silver, and Rachel Lee, who blazed the trail of this class. All photos by Sam Wilder.