Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Bucket List Shenanigans

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When was the last time you crossed something off your bucket list?

bucket list refers to a list of things a person wants to accomplish before they die. For example, my mom hopes to fly a plane or drive a race car before her time comes. Beware: Asian pilot/driver! 

A while back, my friend Sacha decided to make a list of twelve items he wanted to cross off before the end of the year. One Sunday per month, he would enlist a group of willing friends to meet him at a location in San Francisco where they would then form teams and collect clues to determine what they would be doing that particular day. Any individual who attends this cannot back out at the last minute and must proactively contribute to his or her team’s success. A few months ago, the shenanigan was to drive down to Big Sur to arrive at a waterfall that is only accessible to the public between the hours of 1 and 3AM. The groups brought swimsuits and had the opportunity to watch the sunrise from this special location. If you sign up to attend, you have to expect that anything can happen.

I hadn’t heard about these Bucket List shenanigans until the weekend of July 4th, when I was at a friend’s barbecue. After hearing about all of the past events my friends Devon and Willis had participated in, I knew I had to join the next one.

On Sunday, the morning of July 10th, Devon and Willis picked me up, and we headed to the Presidio Social Club parking lot with chef’s knives, cutting boards, and other cooking utensils in tow. (Sacha had requested we bring these items in an email he sent the previous week.) We had no idea what trouble we would be getting into that day, but knew that it involved making a dish of some sort. Being a fan of Bravo’s dramatic, over-the-top, cooking series, Top Chef, I was looking forward to something in the vein of a “quick-fire challenge.”

When we arrived, introductions were made between a dozen of us, and the air dripped with anticipation of what lie ahead. Sacha showed up a few minutes later with a friend by his side and a stack of CD cases in his hands. His friend wore a bright yellow sailing jacket and a mischievous smile. Sacha revealed that he and David had been planning to do whatever it was we were going to do that day for the last six years.

“It had always depended on the season and whether we could obtain the material,” he explained. We all looked at each other with curiosity in our eyes, and the wheels began spinning in our heads.

Sacha selected each of us to join a group (in groups of four), distributed a CD to each group, and had us choose from an ingredients list. My group chose Balsamic Vinegar.

Each group was to listen to the entire CD for clues as to where Sacha and David could be found. We had an hour and a half before we were to come up with a dish to prepare with the chosen ingredient and to meet at the secret location.

The CD consisted of an automated voice that spoke to us and introduced each “part” of the playlist as a clue. You could hear Sacha’s sense of humor in this voice, and it was clever in which songs were selected to communicate his location. We ended up agreeing on clues that led us to believe we would be on a island, traveling by boat, and/or having something to do with religion. It only meant one thing – Angel Island! So, we drove to Tiburon and found Sacha and David at the ferry terminal. Other groups weren’t so clever and thus were waiting in other parts of the city, including the Ferry Building and Treasure Island. We ended up not being able to jump on the ferry since one of the groups had brought along a dog. As an alternative, we found a small state park up in the sunny Tiburon hills and decided to seize a few picnic tables for our mission. By this time, Sacha had explained to us that he was finally able to order miracle fruit from West Africa via a middleman in Florida.

Miracle fruit, otherwise known as Synsepalum dulcificum, are berries that are known to change the flavors of certain foods when you consume the fruit prior to eating those foods. For example, if you eat the berry and place a lemon wedge on your tongue a few minutes afterward, the lemon will taste sugary and sweet. Guinness tastes like chocolate milk. Cream cheese tastes like cheesecake. You get the idea. This fruit has become popular over the last few years at “flavor tripping parties” thrown all over the country.

Sacha had brought an assortment of different foods and drinks for us to try after eating the berries, but he still wanted us to create a dish with our chosen ingredient. One group, whom I liked to think of as overachievers, made this amazing shrimp ceviche with their lemon juice. My group made flatbread with fresh arugula, figs, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Another group made a refreshing cocktail with cantaloupe, vodka, watermelon, and mint.

After rolling the berry around in our mouths for three minutes, we ate the fruit and spit out the seeds. The berry itself didn’t offer much flavor, but the tastes we experienced afterwards is hard to describe to this day. We ravaged everything on the tables, and most likely, to anyone looking from the outside, behaved as if we hadn’t eaten in years. Everything tasted impossibly sweet and delicious. Limes were sucked. Cans of Guinnesses were downed. Grape tomatoes were repeatedly popped into mouths. Spoonfuls of cream cheese were licked. It was like we were high, but we hadn’t smoked a thing. The ultimate munchies as a result of these small, unassuming berries.

Needless to say, the day was entertaining – not just because of the culinary experience, but due to the company we kept and the mutual eagerness to try something new. Can’t wait to see what Sacha will come up with next…

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Written by winniewongsf

July 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

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