Shared from the 10/29/2018 San Francisco Chronicle eEdition


Sharing the streets — a woman reaches out


Next to the bus stop at Fifth and Mission the other day, someone reached into the trash can to pull out and dump a pile of litter and food scraps on the sidewalk. In a few minutes, every pigeon in town was hopping around, wings aflutter, contending for a place at the garbage banquet. Next to this disgusting sight, B.F., a Chronicle editor, noticed an elderly gentleman looking a bit frail, leaning against the front wall of the newspaper.

She asked if she could help him, and he told her he was going to the barber, perhaps a quarter of the way down the block. So she lent him her arm, and the two — able-bodied middle-aged white woman and elderly but together-looking Asian gentleman — made their way, arm in arm, to the barbershop.

She told me in the office later that he’d told her he’d been an architect in his native country. And that when she left him at the barbershop, he thanked her and started to cry.

Across town, on Polk Street, Bob’s Donuts was holding a doughnut-eating contest when Steve Abney noticed a man sprawled outside on the sidewalk. He lay still while a delivery was unloaded beside him. When the contest ended, Abney asked a Bob’s employee whether anyone had called 911.

She said no, that he’s there all the time, and when help is summoned, “he gets up and runs away. He just costs the city money. I should throw water on him.”

* * *

SFFilm hosted a Tuesday, Oct. 23, showing of the as-yet-unreleased “Roma,” attended by a huge and enthusiastic crowd of film lovers, as well as director Alfonso Cuarón and Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, two actresses who star in the movie.

The movie tells the story of a maid (Aparicio) in an upper-middle-class Mexico City family; it’s based on the director’s family and dedicated to the real maid they grew up loving. At a reception upstairs at the Castro before the movie and at a Q&A that followed, de Tavira, an experienced actress, said she was awestruck to realize that she was being considered for a role in the famous director’s film, and after making the movie, thrilled to be part of a story that was “so personal to him.”

Aparicio, who was standing next to her at the reception, was a first-time actress who’d never heard of the director. At the Q&A, she spoke through a translator. She’d thought when she was recruited for the role that the movie was about human trafficking. “And even if they had told me the name of the director, I wouldn’t have had a clue,” she said.

“Just by looking at her,” said Cuarón of Aparicio, “you realize what a huge heart she had.” At the reception, de Tavira had spoken most succinctly of Aparicio’s accomplishment. “You won’t forget her.”

* * *

When we arrived at the Italian Consulate on Broadway, Italian Consul General Lorenzo Ortona and Italian master chef and cookbook writer Viola Biutoni, in starched chef’s jackets embroidered with their names, were in the kitchen cooking dinner.

This was a media feast hosted by the Consulate of San Francisco and the Italian Academy of Cuisine in preparation for this year’s Italian Food Week in the World — Thanksgiving week in the world, Nov. 12 to 18 in the U.S. — as decreed by the government of Italy in Rome. By choice of the Italian ambassador to the United States, consulates in the United States will focus on the foods of the Puglia region of Italy.

Puglia, said Claudio Tarchi of the academy, is an “up and coming” region of Italy, partially because it has not yet been swamped with tourists. Lorenzo and Sheila Ortona have a summer house there. The dinner was spectacular, featuring many kinds of burrata and many spelling challenges, including orecchiette alle cime di rapa con acciughe e pecorino, a kind of ear-shaped pasta with broccoli rabe, anchovies and pecorino.

There’s more to Italy, of course, than the foods that everyone loves. In recent years, Italians have come to the Bay Area to visit Silicon Valley and talk about technology; the mayor of Rome came a few years ago to talk about our recycling of garbage.

But, in the best tradition of those who love Italy and root for its prosperity, the growing, gathering, preparation, presentation and purveying of good things to eat is “where the money is,” said a patriotic guest with an understanding of the country’s economy.

Leah Garchik is open for business in San Francisco, 415-777-8426. Email: Twitter: @leahgarchik

“He’s so stupid. ... Definitely not the brightest bull in the china shop.”
Young woman on cell phone, overheard on Polk Street by Andrea Carla Michaels

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