18 Reasons: Connecting People and Food

If we had an equivalent of one musical femur in our collective bodies, The Local Dish staff would rewrite Connie Stevens’ “16 Reasons”. and sing an ode to San Francisco’s 18 Reasons. In collaboration with Bi-Rite Market, 18 Reasons aims to engage the community through an array of food-themed classes, events and art.

With a new venue debuting at 3674 18th St. on September 16, the barely four-year-old organization is doubling in square-footage and expanding its programs. With up to 25 events hosted each month, from whiskey tastings to community dinners and food swaps, program director Rosie Branson Gill explained there is still more room for growth – especially in youth programs.

“It’s good to get people when they’re young to become curious about food,” said Branson Gill. “It can have a more lasting effect because they have no hang-ups.”

One such endeavor is this month’s new Peanut Butter and the Pen, an eight-week creative writing after school program. Each week, the class of 3rd-5th graders learn literary tools that help them form “meaty metaphors” or pen an autobiography in recipe form. Each aspect of 18 Reasons, said Branson Gill, is designed to fulfill the components of its tagline: Learn. Think. Do.

“We want people to learn something, to think about how food is made and to use their skills,” she said. “We want people to cook, and develop an excitement on how to cook.”

This philosophy was cleanly executed at the recent DIY Liqueurs + Infusions class held at their current 593 Guerrero St. location. A long raw edge table held stations with cutting boards, fresh fruits and liquors for its participants to carry out the night’s recipes. White walls displayed “17 Reasons,” a collection of black and white photos of the old Mission billboard that inspired the organization’s name.

The two-hour class, hosted by Punk Domestics’ Sean Timberlake, had a casual atmosphere and welcomed questions, class participation, as well as late stragglers. Timberlake led the intimate class of seven through the preparation, jarring and tasting of four infusions, including cucumber vodka and pluot and banana-rum liqueurs. Participants, most of whom were returning visitors, brought their jars for take-away goodies and discussed amongst themselves which recipe they would try at first.

Returning guest and long-time Missionite Shana Astrachan has displayed her art at the gallery and is even hoping to teach her own kombucha class at the center. “Everyone’s really nice and the classes are cool – they’ve been great experiences,” she said.

According to Branson Gill, one of the most satisfying aspects of working at 18 Reasons is watching people bond at these events – she swears she’s even witnessed people fall in love. “Food is the great democratizer. It is the focal point that brings people together, whether they agree or not,” said Branson Gill. “[At 18 Reasons, we use it] to harness people to get them excited; to be apart of and engaged in our society.”

Tickets to these events range from $5 for the monthly Soup for Supper dinners or $85 for the recent multi-course Producer Dinner with Cowgirl Creamery. To learn more about 18 Reasons, visit the Website, follow them on Twitter at @18Reasons, or become a fan on Facebook.

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