It has been quite the week here in smoky Napa. The least of my worries was that I had to cancel a cheese class, leaving me with 12 pounds of fabulous cheese in the fridge. Nothing to do but donate it to an evacuation center or to the nearby first-responders’ station.
To my chagrin, neither would take it. “We can’t take perishables,” the evacuation center worker told me. “We have a caterer,” the guard at the first-responders’ camp said. (How Napa.) Okay, then. Reject my cheese. I have a better idea.
My neighborhood has an annual block party, so I had many neighbors’ e-mail addresses. On Friday morning, I announced my Cheese Party: Saturday from 5 p.m. until the cheese runs out. BYOB and bring a checkbook. With my cheese and their generosity, we might raise a few hundred dollars for disaster relief.
I spent a couple of hours cutting up cheese, picked all the ripe figs off our tree and toasted some almonds. My husband, Doug, made signage for the cheeses and fetched some ice. The class theme—“New and Notable from Europe”—meant that I had nothing domestic to offer, but a neighbor asked if I minded if he brought a 14-year-old tin of Cougar Gold. Are you kidding??
By 5:30 p.m., our kitchen was elbow-to-elbow with neighbors—many formerly strangers—exchanging fire stories. (The Atlas Peak inferno threatened to wipe us all out.) At the end of the evening, after washing and putting away the last cheese board, Doug and I upended the manila envelope where neighbors had stuffed their donations. Out tumbled cash and checks totaling almost $4,000. (We have since received additional donations from neighbors, putting us close to $5,000.) Hooray for cheese!
If you would like to help the many people who have been devastated by these fires, please consider a donation to the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Specify that it is for disaster relief.
Sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk/Spain
Cow’s milk/Washington State
Water buffalo milk/Italy