The People's Review, Pay-It-Forward Desserts & A Family

Posted by Pavi on Jul 17, 2007
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Impressions from the evening by Rish Sanghvi...

Karma Kitchen. The name invokes some cosmic balancing act/game/ at work even in the humble workings of an everyday space like the kitchen.   This Saturday, the cosmic game unfolded yet again. Some stories from this space of service:

The desserts were a cultural tour-de-force. A delightful German tart/cake concoction from resident baker extraordinaire Liz, a Mango-Strawberry custard from Pavi/Viral, and an Amish Friendship cake from Roshni. The Friendship cake in particular merits further explanation. The FC only survives in a community setting: an important part of the cake is a small amount of “starter”, which cannot be made with ease, rather is best passed down from person to person.  The starter is used to create more dough, which is then used in the FC.  However, before the baker makes the FC, they save a portion of the dough as a “starter” for someone else. Hence the name “Amish Friendship Cake”.   This pay-it-forward dessert found its way to Karma Kitchen through Roshni, and three portions of the starter made their way to three guests. One of these guests who was tagged with the starter is, a regular of sorts. She walked in and requested a “Community table”, indicating she would like to sit with other kindred spirits. Only one problem: there was no community table. But that did not deter the gentleman sitting at a table next to the doorway, who overheard her request, from inviting her to sit with him. All of a sudden there WAS a community table.  It was an hour and half later that the two pushed their chairs away from the table – the perfect candidates for our “Friendship Cake” starter kit!

Another couple walked in and handed us a big poster with a  “Zagat Style” review. They called it the “People’s Review”.  It was obvious that a lot of time and intention and thought had been invested in its making.  The short review of Karma Kitchen in it was as accurate and essence-capturing as any that the oldest volunteers could have articulated.  Another manifestation of the fact that there are no givers and no takers here. Just circles, and intentions.

Many friends, new and old flitted in and out of the space over the evening.  Lalita, a seasoned service warrior and her first-timer friends delighted and surprised chef’s Vishnuji and Kamalji by gifting them a beautiful flower arrangements to the cheers and applause of diners. Our Namaste friends were also surprised with a brand-new CD player from Karma Kitchen to replace their broken-beyond-repair old one. It made their day.

Four diners, returning after a week of camping in the wilderness of the Sierra’s, camping gear and all, confided that this was the perfect end to their perfect week.

Even owner Gautamji made a quick new friend when one of the volunteer Swarna’s father, Laxmanji noticed that he was wearing a Lion’s Club insignia.  In 5 short minutes they had already exchanging addresses and phone numbers. Meanwhile Swarna’s mother, Pooja and herself formed a formidable plating team back in the kitchen, and were hardly aware of all these going –on’s. 

At the last minute, two guests hovered outside the door, examining the menu. Turns out they were adherents of raw-food consumption, so there wasn’t much on the menu to suit their dietary restrictions.  But they listened intently to the concept of Karma Kitchen. They then looked at each other thoughtfully. After having reached some sort of mental agreement, one of them turned to me and said “We love what you’re doing here so we can be flexible. Yes we’ll eat here”.  They had made the choice to participate in generosity and partake of community, if not raw food.

Christine’s Tibetan prayer flags, a vase full of cheerful sunflowers and beautiful roses from Anjali, Hershey’s kisses, and the usual assortment of smile cards, inspiring cards and books made their way into the hands of our guests. Ten minutes past closing time a tired group of four were at the door. “ Are you closed?” Technically – yes. But luckily “technically” doesn’t mean too much at Karma Kitchen. Four hot dinners were packed (pretty much cleaning out the last of the prepared food) and placed in front of the weary travelers, visiting all the way from Poland. This was their last stop before the long journey home. Their grateful, amazed faces as their food came out said it all. “Have a safe journey,” we called out as they were leaving. “ Have a great LIFE!’ one of the woman says before disappearing into the night.

Not all things went right.  There was a flower vase spill.  Partho ended up washing dishes all night. There was ongoing confusion over which server had which table.  Even so, in this space, everything was just right. At least two guests popped out of their seat to help clean the spill.  Partho smiled through the endless tubs of dirty dishes.  Guests were taken care of. Things flowed. People were happy, smiling. There was a warm glow of the cosmic forces at work, and it was noticeable. And isn’t that what this is really about?

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