Good Food and Good People

05/24/2013 18:47

We are often bombarded with stories of bad people and even evil in our communities. We see the devastation and destruction of weather, the research about children being abused, gay people being the targets of hate, and the list goes on and on. That is why I felt compelled to share this little story about good people.


Last night I had two tickets to go to "Bobfest". It is a concert celebrating Bob Dylan that takes place every year on his birthday. As always, my children always get the right of first refusal when I get tickets. Since my son is the only one homenow, I asked him if he would like to join me at "Bobfest". I was very pleasantly surprised and delighted when he said yes. This busy High School junior has a very active social life he must maintain, when he isn't working that is! It is a rare occasion that I am honored with his presence (as it should be! Don't get me wrong, I want him to have a busy, fun, wonderful life!) Since I had him to myself for the evening, I thought I would seize the opportunity and enjoy a nice dinner out with him too. This is not something we get to do very often.


The "Bobfest" concert was in a town called Red Bank and it is right down the street from Jon Bon Jovi's "Soul Kitchen". I thought that it would be fun to check this out together. If you haven't heard about Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen, it is a community restaurant that serves a 3 course meal. There are no prices on the menu instead you are asked to pay what you can. They let you know that each meal costs them about $10. If you can not afford to pay anything, you are invited to volunteer. You can help in their vegetable gardens, or wash dishes, or serve food, etc... Any excess funds are donated to local charities (I believe local food pantries)


I had heard from some people who weren't very impressed with the Soul Kitchen mostly because they didn't see indigent people eating there or working off their meals. They mostly saw regular middle class families eating dinner there out of curiosity.  I wasn't expecting much. Sometimes good ideas like a community kitchen might not have the best execution or audience. Who knows. I wanted to see what it was all about.

When we arrived, the exterior had a quaint, quirky appeal. There were raised gardens full of herbs and vegetables. We were greeted outside by a hostess who asked if we had been to the Soul Kitchen before and then explained to us how things worked. When we entered the restaurant, I am happy to report to you, I was very impressed. I was expecting maybe picnic tables with paper plates and pitchers of soda on the table. Instead, the inside felt very upscale, very nicely decorated, with linen napkins and real plates and flatware! In the spirit of community dining, you are seated with other diners. My son and I enjoy this, as we both like meeting people and hearing their stories. The menu was actually very appealing with a variety of soups, salads, chicken, pasta, fish and pork items. My son had a salad and spaghetti with turkey meatballs (he said it was excellent). I had a black bean soup and roasted chicken with artichokes, olives and capers over rice. Everything was superb with a beautiful presentation.   For dessert we had a homemade ricotta cheesecake with a pureed berry drizzle. My son had never had cheesecake before. What can I say, he doesn't really eat sweets. (I know, its annoying lol) I admit, I was nervous. If he is going to try cheesecake for the first time, I want him to really appreciate why we all love it so much! Let me tell you, this cheesecake was out of this world! It was rich, creamy and not too sweet. Perfection. He ate half his piece, said it was very good, but he couldn't eat any more given how rich it was. (Why can't I be like that? I did resist eating the rest of his cheesecake though! Yay me!)


Let me now share with you the best part of the dinner.  We were literally surrounded by good people doing good thing.  We shared the table with a nice couple, a little younger than me. I asked them if they were local and if they had ever been here before. They said yes, they had eaten her last year and that they were from Ohio. I asked if they were visiting friends or family in the area. They said neither. They came to volunteer. They spent the day down in Seaside Heights, NJ (so badly devastated by Sandy)  and came up to the Soul Kitchen to sign up to volunteer the next day in the kitchen. They knew it sounded crazy but this was how they liked to spend their vacations!! Volunteering! They were absolutely lovely people. We enjoyed their company tremendously and I my faith in humanity was renewed by their selfless acts of giving.


We also noticed a young man working in the kitchen during our meal. Upon completion of his shift, we saw him leave with containers of food. It would seem he was bringing home dinner. This made me happy too. I'd like to imagine him providing the people he cares about a first class meal for dinner and the pride that must give him. He was able to volunteer in the kitchen to provide food for his loved ones.


How can you not have your faith restored in humanity when you see this much good going on all around you?? At the end of the meal, the waitress (also a volunteer, everyone there was volunteering) handed us each a folded piece of cardboard that resembled a bill, only this had no total inside. Just a place to sign up to volunteer and a reminder that each meal cost them $10 and we were welcome to leave more money to pay for another person's meal. After I put my money and donation inside, I saw my son reach for his wallet.  He took out his hard-earned cash and threw some more money into the pile. I told him he didn't need to do that. If he felt I should leave more, I would be happy to do so. But, he insisted. He felt good being able to help and being a part of the community of giving. Nothing makes a mother prouder than seeing her children be generous and kind of their own volition.


In my opinion the Soul Kitchen is a great success! Hopefully people will bring stories of its success home to their communities and we can have great places like this around the country!  And I hope my little story of goodness has brightened your day!