A Ghetto Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend, Fred, and I arrived from a weekend mini-vacation spent at the “happiest place on earth”, with a little more than an hour to prepare for the Ghetto Gourmet Valentine’s Day Dinner. Before I launch into my recap of the dinner, I have to admit that I haven’t been to LA since 1998, and the last time I was at Disneyland, I was 9 years old! It’s no wonder I experienced a bit of culture shock. Working in San Francisco, I’m used to seeing hipsters toting their trendy L.V. purses and getting stuck behind slow cars on the Bay Bridge; at Disneyland, I was overwhelmed by the throngs of young pregnant moms toting toddlers on their hips and instead of car traffic, I suffered even worse stroller traffic. I was relieved to be back in the Bay Area on Tuesday. On the drive home, we tuned in to NPR’s “Marketplace”, where Nancy Mullane reported on the previous week’s Ghetto Gourmet dinner, interviewing not only the gregarious founder and host (and friend) Jeremy Townsend, but also the health inspector who had handed Jer a “cease and desist”, the day after the Ghetto Gourmet broke out on the Jan 27 frontpage of the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the past, the dinners have been held in the arts and crafts home where Jer and his roommates live in Rockridge, but with the “heat” on Jeremy’s tail, the locations have been disclosed to adventurous diners only hours before the event via e-mail. Fred was due to perform, and I was helping in the kitchen, but an hour before the gig, even we, the insiders, had no clue as to where we were going. At 6:15pm, when the wine-blending demo provided by Thumbprint Cellars was just commencing, we each got the address, and upon arriving (separately) we saw our silat kung fu teacher, Peter, inside. The Valentine’s dinner had been sold out for weeks, and so I didn’t think Peter and his fiancee, Nicole,would be able to dine Ghetto-style. Then I found out that the house belonged to them!

Eighteen couples cozied up in arts and crafts bungalow, and in-between courses, starting first with seared scallops, Jeremy and Tim the Willcutts Savage read “lascivious” poetry that honored the female anatomy, particularly the bosom. Fred got on his guitar and played classical pieces in the Spanish style. I hadn’t envisioned spending Valentine’s Day with 40 strangers at my $5 kung fu teacher’s house, and later eating West Coast Pizza at the guys’ house instead of a candlelit dinner for two or a spa get-a-way, but you know what, I went to Disneyland and had tons of fun with my honey. Who could ask for more?

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