Monday, March 9, 2009

The Hippie Kitchen

Hippie: "Someone who rejects the established culture; advocates extreme liberalism in politics and lifestyle."

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings I get a free breakfast at the Hippie Kitchen. Just a few blocks from my box, on Gladys and 6th Street, just across the street from the world famous Gladys Park, where all of the elite homeless hang out all day, anyone can come and have a meal for free. Since this is Skid Row we're talking about, many of the local denizens take advantage of the hippie's kindness and get a nice hot, nutritious breakfast. The menu is rather rigid, as it is always the same: beans and salad.
Beans and salad, beans and salad, beans and salad, always the same. Now the type of beans may change from time to time. I personally have consumed many lima, a few butter beans, a parceling of lentils, many a Coral, velvet, winged, runner, tepary, hyacinth, broad, Moth, azuki, urad, jack, sword, navy, kidney, and pinto bean, but never a Mung. Never a coffee, caster, or coca bean, for that matter. Sometimes you'll get a plain old common bean, or bean bean. And yes I'll admit that every once in a while you may get a pea instead of a bean, which would abrogate my contention that all you get is beans and salad. Life is complicated.
The beans are the hot part of the meal, then you have your salad, which is always some nice crisp lettuce covered with a fine smidgeon of some kind of invisible dressing.
And you get as an extra bonus a slice of buttered bread, and a plastic spoon.
Especially on weekends, many wonderful people come down to Skid Row and hand out food. Some on a fairly regular basis. I rarely take advantage of this because I can afford to actually buy my own food, and I have a propensity not to stand in lines (once a month some nice Asian people come and give free haircuts). However, on occasion I've been walking around and I see one of these righteous displays of decency and charity and I've taken advantage. I've received cheeseburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. Chicken seems to be a local favorite, which I have gotten. I stood in line for almost an hour for pancakes one time (the man was actually cooking them four at a time). With the free meals provided at the various missions and Salvation Army, indeed, it's almost impossible for anyone to go hungry on Skid Row (which is a disadvantage for the thousands of panhandlers who infest the area. "You got any spare change so I can get something to eat?" hasn't got the same poignancy when you know free food is given away on a regular basis).
I have never had the inclination to go inside a mission (of which there are a few, including the Los Angeles, Union Rescue, Midnight, and Fred Jordan Missions) for a meal, although I do take advantage of their fantastic Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, which are like day long block parties, and where many celebrity type people come down to serve food and get their picture taken (for example, I've met the lovely Jennifer Love Hewitt, the Fonze, Henry Winkler, and the still lovely Kirk Douglas).
I do make use of the Hippie Kitchen on a fairly regular basis simply because it is so close to my home, and I am often too lazy to cook my own breakfast. Besides, I like hot beans and salad.
The Hippie Kitchen always serves from nine-thirty to noon. I usually go around eleven as the line has usually abated by that time. The Hippie Kitchen resides in a gated, landscaped property, garden actually, with one sole building, the kitchen. One enters on 6th Street, walks through the garden to the north entrance of the kitchen, and there you see them, the hippies.
The hippies disguise themselves cleverly as various teenagers, retired folks, and all manner in between. They are always cheerful and glad to see you there. My friend Ron M, tells me he has often volunteered at The Hippie Kitchen, although I know for a fact he is in no way, shape, or form, an actual card carrying hippie.
You walk into the kitchen and a hippie will slap a smattering of the hot bean (sometimes peas) of the day on a nice and sturdy paper plate and give it to you. Next to that hippie is another hippie who will in turn slap some salad onto the very same plate you have your beans on, then another hippie standing adjacent of the last hippie, will slap a slice of pre-buttered bread (various varieties) smack on top of the now bean and salad mixture. And there you have it.
You then exit the kitchen into the garden where a large amount of assorted hippies are waiting for you to be helpful. One hippie will offer you some sliced onions to go on your beans and salad. Another hippie will give you hot sauce and salt for your beans. Another may give you a glass of water or milk. Other hippies will simply walk around and ask you if you need anything. Sometimes bags of bread pieces are given away, as well. I got a nice bag of bread pieces just this last Saturday, which I still have. They are very tasty. I think I'll have one now.
Ummm, that was good. Excuse me while I brush my teeth.
Here's a link to The Hippie Kitchen's parent organization, Catholic Workers:
Now the average customers of the Hippie Kitchen are welcome to stay on the grounds and eat their beans and salad. Being an unsociable person I always take my beans and salad home to consume at my leasure. Besides I can then put some of my own salad dressing on the lettuce. It is always a good, hearty, way to start the day, and good for you too. And economical.
So the next time you find yourself near 6th and Gladys on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning, please stop by and enjoy some beans and salad.
The hippies will be mighty glad you did.

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