by Nipun Mehta
That may look like a shelf from the grocery store, but it’s actually a photo from last weekend’s Karma Kitchen!
It all started with Rajen, the restaurant owner, calling me and saying, “Two people came in to the restaurant yesterday and dropped off 3 big boxes of organic tomatoes! They said they were very inspired by Karma Kitchen and wanted to make a contribution. I asked their names but they wanted to stay anonymous!” None of us really knew that tomatoes could get us so happy, but it did.
Previously, Pancho and I had spoken about bringing a “gift-economy farmers market” to Karma Kitchen, but none of us figured it would all manifest so soon! Unrelated to the tomato offering, Pancho shows up the next morning with a friend, a bicycle, and one-heck-of-a-pulley with local produce! You have to see the photo to believe it:
The tomatoes were used up by the kitchen crew, but now we had all this fresh-and-organic-and-local produce gifted to us, sitting right outside our restaurant. As we brainstorm ideas — where should we place this, how will be communicate the gift-economy idea to people, what should our sign say — the stories start oozing out. “Man, I just went up to the farmers at the market and started telling them about Karma Kitchen and mentioned Adam’s name, and everyone just starts giving us crazy amounts of produce. And that apple-lady, forget about it,” Pancho adds.
Pretty soon, we rope in Manu — a Berkeley business school student who is still new to the gift-economy concept, let alone the local economy — and Christine R. (an undergrad student at Cal and the “ambiance manager” at KK today) to craft a sign for our display table. And they did:
The smell of fresh vegetables was in the air. Pomegranate, apples, strawberries, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, you name it. We had a full out array of local produce. Let alone the restaurant goers, all the volunteers were SUPER stoked.
Practically all of the restaurant goers approach the produce table, get a big hug from Pancho, stuff some veggies and fruits in the little brown bags, and leave with big smiles. Some of them couldn’t really wait till they got home and they launched into the strawberries right there! And once you taste one of them fresh, organic berries, it’s over. 🙂 In fact, we even took some to our dessert counter in the back and started giving it out with practically everything — including kheer. 🙂 It was a blast.
Last but not least, though, our kindness investigative unit did indeed figure out one of the activists behind the tomato-gifting yesterday. And together with today’s culprit, we framed them with wild applause from the diners that were enjoying the fruits — quite literally — of their selfless labor:
Next stop: if the community supports this idea of a gift-economy farmers market, we’re hoping to bring the farmers themselves to Karma Kitchen!