I’ve been traveling a lot lately to cities I’ve never been before, and I always like to get a little sampling of local culture by requesting locals for their recommendation on where they like to hang out to relax, sip a cup of good coffee and nosh a scone with free wi-fi, and where to eat food freshly prepared. I like to think that their ideas, spontaneously erupting from sometimes perplexed or flattered faces, links us something together in a tenuous but intimate connection. Most take the suggestion rather seriously, saying something akin to “well, let me think about that for a bit,” as if they are a) revealing something to me about their identity, their values, their story b) worried that my approval, and perhaps that I won’t like what they like. Very frequently, I get, “Well, what sort of foods do you like?” and no matter my response, I think this question is merely to bide them time to integrate a and b above and come up with something that satisfies the question.
This weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to be sent to One World Everybody Eats. The concept of this place centers on a few cooks spontaneously creating a selection of fresh menu items daily from whatever fresh organic ingredients they happen to have in the kitchen that day. A person goes in and gets any amount of food from a selection, which they serve up on homemade plates and bowl, amidst an atmosphere like an independent coffee house run from an old home. It feels warm when you are in there, and the cooks actually serve up the food and again, there is a sense of pride and connection in the exchange.
When I visited the menu involved two types of soup, a cauliflower leek and a lentil dal, a trio of salads, chicken simmered in a red sauce, pancakes, homemade bread and phenomenal desserts: apple brown betty, rice pudding, a delectable vegan pumpkin pie and their famous everything cookie, plus a little lemon bundt cake. I am the queen of samples, and I loved the fact that I could have small portions and taste everything. I felt home and quite comfortable there as a single eater…especially when two other customers started chatting with me about misconceptions about certain cultures and being lost after graduate school.
The most resonating aspect of the meal involves that there is no set price to the meal. It is a pay what you can sort of place. This concept inspires me, not just because it is a genuine way to feed people whom may otherwise not eat fresh food (and organic food can be so overblown in the wallet department) but because it perhaps engenders reflection “how much is this meal worth to me? What does my patronage of this place of business say about my values, my beliefs.”
One thing about the holiday season is that what we eat is more overtly full of meaning. This was one place where the spirit of Christmas is captured as its very foundation.
Where do you eat? What does it say about you? If I asked you where I should go, what would you be telling me about yourself?