I've also been thinking that I want to go out and meet more people.
Oh, and I also want to learn how to cook a dosa that doesn't look like a dead pancake.
I happened to write all of those things down yesterday afternoon, as I sat in Tryst with my laptop and thought to myself "what do I want to do next?" I mean, I wrote that I wanted to meet Ira Glass, and he showed up three days later in the Borders across the street. I wrote that I wanted to see They Might Be Giants, and two weeks later I was there, singing along to "Whistling In The Dark."
So I wrote a whole list of things, which included the above list: "giving back," meeting people, and cooking. (It also included "meeting Madhur Jaffrey," but the internet says she lives in London right now.)
At first I thought they would all be separate things. "Giving back" would mean sending money to Nina Paley because I'm hosting a screening of her movie Sita Sings The Blues later this week; meeting people would mean dragging myself to something at Meetup.com, and cooking would mean shelling out $300 for classes at L'Academie de Cuisine.
And then the universe said "No, I will give you all of these things in one neat package. Although you should probably still give that donation to Nina Paley."
In short: Karma Kitchen.
What is Karma Kitchen? It's based on the same principles as a langar hall; fresh, free vegetarian food available to anyone who walks in the door. Karma Kitchen takes it in a few different directions; for starters, they want the guests to have a "fine dining experience," which means linens and china and attentive waitstaff. More importantly, Karma Kitchen gives all of its guests a "bill" at the end of the meal that reads:
Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. We hope you will pay-it-forward however you wish.
In other words, it's not a soup kitchen. It's an... anyone kitchen. Anyone who needs a meal, and anyone who wants to share a meal with other people. Pay-it-forward however you wish.
The DC Karma Kitchen is an offshoot of the original Karma Kitchen in Berkeley. Anyone can volunteer. I can volunteer. Which means that I can spend Sunday afternoons working with fun, interesting people; providing excellent service to guests (all those years of waitressing can be put to good use!); and--selfishly--watching the cooks do their thing.
I spent today at Karma Kitchen and had the best time. I'm absolutely going back next week.