Here I am at AT&T Park on a Thursday afternoon for a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. I’m here with Diane and David Albracht from Sebastopol, who used to belong to Slow Food Russian River and who might be called foodies. They owned a couple of restaurants in Sonoma County, one in Graton and another in Occidental.
They love baseball and they love to eat, though they don’t love the same teams. She loves the Giants. He loves the L.A. Dodgers.
Diane made big, delicious sandwiches for all of us: barbecued chicken, smoked gouda, hot mayonnaise, hot pepper, onion pea sprouts and prosciutto on a sour dough roll.
She and David are also drinking Lagunitas beer. I’m drinking the water I brought with me.
Diane’s sandwiches are probably the healthiest food in the ballpark.
I’m eating my sandwich slowly and enjoying it.
So, I guess you could say that the Slow Food Movement has established a beachhead of sorts at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The website, Thrillist, ranked AT&T Park # 2 in terms of food on a list of thirty baseball stadiums from Seattle to New York, Miami to Minnesota. But that’s not saying much.
The food at many places is just inedible.
Thrillist wrote of AT&T Park, “The Murderers’ Row of food includes Dungeness crab sandwiched between slices of garlic butter sourdough, Caribbean-style bibimbap, and the model ballpark garlic fries (no wonder Pablo Sandoval got so fat here).”
Indeed a fanatical San Francisco Giants fan, as well as a player such as Sandoval, could get very fat at AT&T Park.
Sourdough and fries just won’t cut it with those who like slow food, healthy food. The Dungeness crab isn’t nearly as fresh as I want it to be.
What’s curious to me is that San Francisco has a reputation as a foodie city. It’s a wonder that some of that reputation hasn’t rubbed off on the Giants and the stadium where they play home games.
Indeed, a lot more remains to be done to introduce fresh local ingredients to the world of baseball. Minds and stomachs will also have to be changed. Fans will have to want and expect a lot more than hot dogs, cracker jacks and slices of barely warmed over pizza.
When Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement, visited San Francisco in 2004 he didn’t visit AT&T Park. But he stopped at Amoeba Music on Haight Street where he found recordings of the folk music that he loves.
In Slow Food Nation, he wrote of Amoeba, “I went to one of the most richly stocked record shops I have ever seen.” Wouldn’t it be lovely if, on another visit to San Francisco, he might go to see the Giants, and write, “I went to a baseball stadium that offers some of the best food I have ever eaten!”
That day would be well worth remembering.
Baseball and food have been a part of my life ever since I was a teenager and craved fast food, greasy food, the greasier the better.
Almost all of the food at AT&T Park is fast food, and, while the park is on the Bay, and while there’s a breeze from the water, the overwhelming aroma is fried food.
Indeed, the essence of food at a ballpark in San Francisco, San Diego, St. Louis or elsewhere is speed. Whether it’s a hot dog and garlic fries with a cold frothy beer, it has to be fast.
The main point is to watch the game, and, while sitting and watching the game, pack in calories and carbs.
The ads here are for Safeway, Coors and Budweiser. Many of the fans are fat, overweight or obese. They don’t seem to mind the extra pounds, at least not today.
Summertime — the time for barbecue, corn dogs, potato salad and barbecued beef, chicken, and pork — seems ready made for hearty eaters and overeaters of the sort I normally do not share a meal.
Still it feels good to be here at AT&T Park with San Franciscans and northern Californians from all walks of life, whether they’re fast eaters or slow eaters, vegans or omnivores.
Baseball brings us together in the All-American game.
Jonah Raskin is a member of Slow Food Russian River.