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World's Largest Meatloaf – in El Cerrito?

El Cerrito's distinctions may soon include the Guinness World Record for the largest meatloaf. On Oct. 13, El Cerritan Matt Easton and friends hope to take their meatloaf-making "Burning Loaf" fundraiser to a new height, or weight.

On October 13, El Cerrito resident Matt Easton and a bunch of guys intend to produce the world’s biggest meatloaf in his front yard.

Using 100 pounds of grass-fed beef, 50 pounds of ground pork sausage, 12 pounds of onions, 100 eggs, tomatoes, mounds of bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste, Easton and his fellow “Loafers” are aiming to establish the Guinness World Record for the world’s biggest meatloaf. They also plan to have a good time and raise money for charity.

Patch talked with Matt Easton about the world’s record, the genesis of Burning Loaf and what he hopes Burning Loaf will inspire others to do.

Founders: Matt Easton and John Kendall

What are the logistics behind creating the world’s largest meatloaf? I used a spreadsheet to calculate the amount of each ingredient we need to make a 250 pound meatloaf.

We have quite a few veterans from previous Burning Loaf events who have split up into teams. The procurement team worked with Marin Sun Farms in Point Reyes, which is providing the meat and eggs at a generous discount. We have a prep crew who will mix the meatloaf and refrigerate it. My church is providing the institutional kitchen for the prep crew. 

We have an engineering crew building a mortar-less brick oven in my front yard! Within the brick oven, there’s going to be a metal stretcher – about two feet by five feet – and that entire surface will be covered with meatloaf. It will look like a meat sled. 

To establish the record, we need to weigh and record everything. Guinness requires video and pictures. We have a weigh master who will adjudicate everything from ingredients to the final meatloaf.

When did Burning Loaf begin? The first Burning Loaf happened spontaneously. In 2002, when my wife was pregnant with our daughter, my friends and I thought we would have a man shower – a baby shower for guys – and John [Kendall] and I decided that barbecued meatloaf would be kind of fun.

We had a great time and kept talking about how we could connect guys, grilling and giving.

In 2004, we had the first, full-fledged Burning Loaf. If you do these three things: get a group of guys together, barbecue a meatloaf and give away money, it’s Burning Loaf. Anyone can do this.

The idea is that the guests receive from the party and they give to the charity.

It’s become an annual event. There have been Burning Loaf events in Michigan, New Hampshire, Indiana, and New York.

This sounds very different from the traditional fundraising dinner. Those types of events like the thousand-dollar-a-plate dinners are fine and are designed to maximize revenue for reputable organizations.

But it is very different to have the fundraisers not take any of the money at all. Burning Loaf might not work on a grand scale but there’s something very pure about it.

At Burning Loaf, there’s no pitch. We pick a charity that we think is doing good work. Everyone gives anonymously—some more, some less depending on what they can give and how fired up they are about Burning Loaf. All of the money goes to the charity. We actually mail the money out before we eat.  Then we announce how much the group gave all together.

I give a pep talk and say, “You guys did this together. Go do more stuff like this.” Then everyone cheers and we eat a whole bunch of meatloaf!

How did you come up with the name Burning Loaf? Did something unfortunate happen while you were cooking one of your meatloaves? We were riffing on Burning Man although Burning Loaf only resembles Burning Man in that they’re both odd personal expressions. About half the time, the meat loaf actually does catch on fire!

How does catching fire affect the meatloaf? A little bit of meatloaf flambé does improve the taste!

Which charities have you supported through Burning Loaf? We have given to Red Cross/Red Crescent, a couple of different food banks such as the Solano and Contra Costa Food Bank, and Adelante, which is a micro-finance institution. Last year, we gave a little over $15,000 for the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

This year, we are giving to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Why do you call participants “loafers”? Several reasons. First, the word loaf sounds like the word love. When you’re doing this, you’re a “loafer”, you’re a lover. You’re trying to love the world. You have a burning love for it.

Second, there are a million songs with ‘love’ in the title, all of which we’ve co-opted into terrible puns.  Some examples: All You Need Is Loaf. Loaf Is A Battlefield. Loaf, Sweet Loaf.  Hunka, Hunka Burnin’ Loaf.

There’s a fun, self-deprecating humor to the term loafer.  When you’re a loafer, maybe you’re just a typical schmo who doesn’t want to work that hard, but we are obviously trying to get ourselves doing something!. It has a little bit of that Gen Y twist to it too. For the younger guys who come to Burning Loaf—why wait until you’re in your 40s to start doing good things? Why not flip that switch when you’re 23? Burning Loaf creates a community spirit that encourages giving.

Is there a typical “loafer”? We have all sorts of guys--younger and older, richer and poorer, more faith-based and less. We’ve observed each group has something to show each other. I'm sure there are older guys who have given dutifully to charities every year. Then they do Burning Loaf and they say, “Hey, wait a minute, this is really fun!” Those who are younger go, “oh, it doesn’t hurt to give”

Burning Loaf helps people develop into givers. If we can get a few more people who think of giving for the rest of their lives, long after Burning Loaf then we’ll have done well.

Editor's note: Attendance at the event is by invitation only. It is not open to the public. But if you wish to launch your own Burning Loaf event, go to www.burningloaf.org for recipes and ideas. You can contact Matt Easton at matteaston@yahoo.com

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