OPENfuture--the confused recap

our fearless leader frank smigiel at alemany farm

okay, let's talk about OPENfuture before a whole month passes and i feel like it's completely irrelevant.

when jerome realized that he was going to be gone for the five weeks directly preceding the event, i think he started to panic a bit. i'd just lost my job, so they wondered if i wanted to come in as the chef/coordinator, and i said YES! when i realized how huge it was all going to be, i insisted we bring in chris lee, too. we're a package deal these days.

then jerome left and we began to realize how much work there still was left to do.

then soul food farm burned down and i knew i had to do whatever i could to help raise some money for alexis. i was down at esalen without phone or internet while bonnie planned the event for 10/11, a mere six days before OPENfuture. ack!

there were meetings and emails galore. googledocs became my most visited webpage. for about a month, i was simultaneously working on both of these events. my head was spinning. so many emails! so many obstacles!

where would we get the steer? we wanted something grass-fed, and relatively small, something from someone we knew well, so we knew we had to turn to bob and ross cannard at green string farm.

where would we slaughter it? the animal was far up north in red bluff, ca, but could we do it closer so that our friend could videotape it for her graduate school project? no, that didn't work out.

would the slaughter happen in time so that we could hang it for the three weeks necessary to age the meat properly? october 17th minus three weeks equals september 27th. but the day we were having this conversation was....september 28th. uh-oh. so the steer was set for slaughter on 10/1. but when i called on 10/3 to inquire about the brain, which we'd wanted to remove and give to lance to make grappa out of for us, it still was alive in the field. uh-oh. i had to turn a blind eye.

where would we hang it the animal? we'd all heard of avedano's, and some of us had been there. but had anyone ever actually spoken to any of the meatladies? eventually, we got in touch and they agreed to let us hang the animal in their shop

but how would we transport it to the shop, and once there, how the heck were we going to get it onto the hooks? uh, let's just say there's a dent on the wall in front of avedano's that wasn't there before. and a butcher who shall remain nameless may have sprained his wrist.

where would we cook it? what sf landowner in their right mind would let us dig a 7 x 3 x 2 foot trench in their yard and cook a quarter-ton animal? for a while, zeitgeist was considered, but that fell through. finally, jason at alemany farm agreed to let us do it. but we were planning to bike the cooked monster to SFMOMA and alemany farm was pretty much on the other side of town. how the heck were we going to make this work?

and what about a fire permit? ha! problem of the century. jason said we could just go without as far as he was concerned, but alemany farm is basically on the freeway, so someone was guaranteed to see the billowing smoke around 3am and call the fire department. we couldn't stomach the thought of being stuck with a half-raw steer in the middle of the night, so we knew we had to get a fire permit. but how were we going to convince the city?

and who the heck was going to show us how to cook the thing? after months of phone tag with our prospective spit-roaster, we got chewed out for waiting until three weeks before the event to contact him. it was ugly, and we got desperate. for a few days there, i was maniacally googling "how to spit-roast a whole steer" and considering flying someone in from germany, where spit-roasted steer is a traditional oktoberfest dish. then, our hero jack cannard agreed to supervise and bring the equipment.

chris and jack preparing the steer to roast at alemany farm

how would a rickety-ass tricycle sam bought from an oakland crackhead get a quarter-ton steer from alemany farm to SFMOMA?

allow me to illustrate what we're talking about here:
there is no sane answer for this. let me just say that howie is a crazy mofo. i still can't believe he made it happen. not to mention the fact that they were so pleased with their progress on the way to the museum that the entire entourage stopped for shots of tequila at a bar. with the steer. while the rest of us were pacing back and forth wondering if we should call the fire department to help.

oh, and so much more: there was the bread--were there going to be testers? and who was going to make the mole? where would we get avocados from in october? why weren't any of my urban farmers calling me back about the veggies for the city limits stew? how were we going to grind all of that meat for the ice cream cones? and who was going to make 800 tortillas? who was going to fry them? where would we find an edible ink printer for the panforte? who was going to come do all of this work for free? what would all of these people wear? and what if someone got hurt?

are you catching my drift yet? add into that mix of confusion 130 volunteers (some who are emailless), an amazing yet inexplicable mission statement, some major menu-printing mayhem the day before the event, and a lot of hipsters, drugs and alcohol, and you might begin to understand why my neck (storage space for my stress) is only now starting to relax, three weeks later.

but, it couldn't have been better. magical things happen when people come together with good in their hearts:

i had a fantastic time working with so many wonderful people: sam, jerome and stacie (who i told had to induct me as a member of OPEN after all of that!), but also sasha, mark gravel, howie, christa, the avedano's gals, and frank. and about 100 others.