If all goes according to plan, the date of Oct. 13, 2012 in El Cerrito will go down in history.
It was the day when about 80 guys gathered in the yard of Matt Easton to try to set the official record for the world's biggest meatloaf.
Inside a large cinderblock oven built for the occasion in Easton's front yard sat, or lay, the contender – a five-foot-long slab of meatloaf whose carefully measured ingredients before cooking weighed 264 pounds, Easton said.
Easton and his supporters are vying for a spot in the Guinness World Records, which requires scrupulous documentation and reputable witnesses. Accordingly, they recruited Contra Costa County's Deputy Sealer of Weights and Measures, Steve Reymann, to make sure the large scale – hooked up to a MacBook and digital weight meter – was set up and operating properly.
Several hours later, when the meatloaf was done, lifted out of its oven by four guys and officially weighed at 8:28 p.m., it had shrunk down to 206.5 pounds, according to John Jacob, the event's weights and measures recorder.
Did it set a record? There is no existing record for meatloaf, and the answer remains unknown until Guinness weighs the evidence.
But an unexpected problem arose. Guinness had asked that the attempt weigh at least 100 kilograms, meaning that the resulting 206.5 pounds – or about 94 kilograms – fell a bit short, Jacob acknowledged.
But, he added, he's optimistic that Guinness will honor the attempt.
"They may choose and give it to us anyway," he said. "It's at their discretion."
Easton contacted Guinness more than a year ago and got the green light to try to establish a meatloaf record. There is a Guinness record for the largest meatball – 1,110 pounds set in Columbus, Ohio, last October. And there's one for the largest Leberkäse, a German liver cheese sometimes called a meatloaf. It was set in 2009 in Germany, a whopping 6,874.01 pounds.
"It's really close," co-organizer John Kendall said of the El Cerrito meatloaf's final weight. "If they don't give it to us, fine. I'm glad we made the effort."
It was the largest meatloaf yet in the annual "Burning Loaf" fundraiser, which Easton and Kendall began holding in 2004. The previous record was 85 pounds, set last year in Easton's yard. This is the first time they've attempted to make their mark in the Guinness World Records.
The premise behind Burning Loaf is simple. A bunch of guys, who've come to be called "Loafters," contribute money for a worthy cause and get together to cook and eat a big meatloaf, along with other foods and beverages of distinguished quality.
The funds have gone to different organizations over the years. Last year, the group raised a little over $15,000 for the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
The amount raised this year, along with the attendance, set a new record, $20,424.99, Kendall told the crowd. The proceeds this year go to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
The cooking time also set a new record, though as the daylight hours waned into darkness, the extra wait didn't seem to dampen the cheerful mood.
Spirits were buoyed in part by a table of fine wines – including those from "Loafer" Fred Oliai, owner and winemaker of Alta Wines of Napa Valley.
Also contributing to the anticipation was the prospect of a special dessert – handmade truffles provided by Brett D'Ambrosio of Berkeley. Among the choices were Cointreau-Vanilla Bean Creamsicle, Toasted Pistachio and "Les Snobinettes," or Burnt-Caramel-filled with Fleur de Sel. And there was an impromptu last-minute addition – "White Trash Truffles," rolled in crushed Cheetos.
Asked if he specialized in artisan delectables, D'Ambrosio replied, "I'm a software developer with a catering problem."
"This is one of the best meals I get all year," said Chris Webb of El Sobrante, who was standing next to the cinderblock oven and wearing a bright chartreuse worker vest for his role as fire-safety guard. "It's advertised as this really goofy thing where we eat just meatloaf, but we actually eat really well."
El Cerrito Mayor Bill Jones and Mayor Pro Tem Greg Lyman dropped by and added official ambience to the occasion.
"It's pretty exciting," said attendee Brook Barnum of Richmond, "and I think it's for a good cause too – a way of helping out the veterans, the veterans who protect our freedoms and lay their lives on the line."
Easton said he doesn't know how long it will take Guinness to respond once the documentation is submitted but estimated that it could take between one and six weeks.
He said Guinness offered to send out its own representative to verify the attempt but at a cost of $10,000. So Easton opted to submit the proof instead. "We're doing ours on a shoestring," he said.
The name "Burning Loaf" was inspired by the Burning Man festival name, though the two events do not have much in common, except that they're unique and feature a gathering of people and a leading role played by fire.
Easton spoke about the event and how it got started in an interview with El Cerrito Patch published Oct. 3.
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