Per the invitation of Aya, the beautiful Japanese woman who was part of my most recent Vegan Soul Food lesson, I spent part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend dining at Karma Kitchen, a pay-it-forward restaurant, where your bill is $0.00, and you pay what your heart leads you to give; somebody before you paid for you to eat and you do the same for someone else; its founders call it a "volunteer-driven experiment in generosity.”
I loved everything about my experience. First of all, Karma Kitchen features Indian cuisine, one of my absolute favorites. I fellowshipped with perfect strangers of diverse backgrounds–including Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and African American—over mostly vegan dishes that featured zuchini, kidney beans, cauliflower, and potatoes seasoned with fragrant, delicious Indian spices. Aya introduced me to Krishna, one of the facilitators, and, at the end of my dining experience, she took me down into the kitchen. Since I prepare Indian food and have been leading lessons on how to prepare it in group cooking lessons, meeting the chefs was the highlight for me. I was especially interested in the chef who was in charge of preparing naan, the Indian bread that I cannot seem to get right despite numerous attempts. I learned from him that naan can be made with sugar, flour, yeast, baking powder, and milk. “No egg? No yogurt? No soy yogurt,” I inquired. “No,” he responded. The recipe I use most often calls for an egg for which I substitute 1/4 cup of applesauce or soy yogurt to create a vegan version . While the taste of my vegan naan appeals to my guests and students–for they almost always eat all of it–, my naan is more like flatbread than the light, airy naan that I’ve experienced at Indian restaurants. Seeing the naan at Karma Kitchen puff in just 30 seconds once it was pressed against the hot walls of the clay oven made me consider pre-heating my pizza stone for a much longer period of time and at a higher temperature. I am determined to get it exactly right.
It is in divine order that I first learned about and experienced Karma Kitchen during the Martin Luther King holiday while I was doing exactly what I love —sharing my love and knowledge of life-affirming food. King advocated love, generosity and service. I met so many beautiful, interesting, and inspiring people at Karma Kitchen and plan to dine, volunteer & help cook if they’ll let me. Thanks, Aya and Tourette for inviting me!