Two Vancouverites inspired by Burning Man will toast golden brown grilled cheese sandwiches Saturday and hand them out for free at the third annual Amazing Grilled Cheese Giveaway.
This year’s event will happen for the first time with the help of a $500 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.
“I went over and talked to [foundation representatives] and they said, oh yeah, you’re a committee favourite, we love you guys,” said 40-year-old Toby Armitt, who co-hosts the event in front of his home on the Adanac bike route on Union Street at Princess Avenue.
Co-host Joni McKervey said the “spontaneous sharing” they encountered at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert inspired the two friends to share that sensibility in Vancouver.
Armitt’s Strathcona neighbours were quick to latch onto the inaugural event.
“After six or eight months, Toby had people coming up to him going, when are you going to do that grilled cheese thing again?” McKervey said.
The pair continues to hand out triangles of melted orange cheddar, which numbered more than 300 half sandwiches in 2010 and double that in 2011, because they like the experience.
“People are really surprising,” said 32-year-old McKervey, who describes herself as “a relaxer in a hustler’s world” on Twitter. “You could say I expect the person in their 40s in their spandex bike gear to not respond to me because they look like maybe it’s just a professional who’s out for a cycle and they’re probably really goal oriented or not very playful or something. Then I yell at them with the megaphone and they come around and they’re like, oh yeah, sure I’m hungry, so they end up meeting somebody next to them who lives down the street.”
She said some passersbys react with clear mistrust, but most enjoy receiving a free treat.
“This one time, I was manning the megaphone and this guy was riding by and I said, ‘Hey, do you want a free grilled cheese sandwich?’ and he went, ‘I can’t eat cheese!’” McKervey said. “He sounded kind of mad at me.”
They’ll provide a vegan option for this year.
Last year, people brought them food from their gardens and one woman gave them a keg of beer from the back seat of her car.
“It’s interesting what happens when you start giving stuff away just for no other reason than to do it,” said Armitt, a camera assistant for the film industry. “People started getting into the spirit, they started thinking if you can do it, we’ll do something.”
The Strathcona Community Centre and Benny’s Market are donating bread this year.
McKervey recently saw a photo of a sandwich from Victoria that was branded with an image of Che Guevara and dubbed “guerill’d cheese sandwich.”
“It said ‘Free food for free people,’” she said. “I don’t know if we’ve tapped into some kind of weird grilled cheese-giving zeitgeist and this is just spontaneously happening other places.”
The giveaway runs from 1 to 9 p.m.
The event will be live streamed on the ustream.tv channel called Grilled Cheese TV!