This post is my introduction to quinoa. It’s a little out of the ordinary because SAME Café is out of the ordinary . . .
It’s a sunny winter day in Denver, still several minutes before the doors open at SAME Café and there’s a line of people forming outside on this East Colfax sidewalk. The group is a mix of sorts – several in tattered clothes, others in suits, and a few hip folks with piercings and tattoos. They are here for lunch. This, however, is no regular café.
SAME is short for “So All May Eat” and the unusual mode of business here is that people pay what they want. Yeah, that’s right, there’s no set menu price. And, for folks who can’t pay, they can work in exchange. There’s no cash register, just a donation box where people pay what they feel their meal was worth. And, if a person can, leave a little more to help out someone less fortunate.
The nonprofit has been open for three years. In 2009, SAME served over 18,500 meals; since it opened – almost 35,000 meals. It is not a soup kitchen. It’s a communal concept based on dignity with good food at its core. A typical menu looks something like this: Zuppa Tuscana Soup, Beer Cheese Soup, Chicken Salad, Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad, Sausage & Mushroom Pizza, Apple Walnut & Bleu Cheese Pizza, and cookies. The menu changes daily and focuses on seasonal ingredients with vegetarian options always offered in the daily menu of soups, salads and pizzas.
This month SAME Café was recognized with the Channel 7 Everyday Hero Award and also an impressive MSN Hometown Heroes Award, an online viewer voting contest connected to their NBC Nightly News segment with Brian Williams (watch the video).
SAME is the brainchild of Brad and Libby Birky who were concerned about the hunger issue here in Denver. The two work full-time at the café, along with one part-time employee and the many volunteers who help with meal preparation, cleaning and numerous miscellaneous tasks.
Notably, Libby is also the “Salad Queen” and she generously allowed me to come observe her in action as she prepared the quinoa salad. Her recipe is below with my measurements/ratios (she made a gargantuan bowlful; the recipe is adjusted for a smaller quantity). The salad is refreshing with the citrus-based dressing, fresh parsley and sweet raisins. For those unfamiliar with quinoa salads, this version is tabouleh-esque.
How to Support SAME:
2010 is off to a busy start at SAME. The economic downturn is one reason, as is the season – when the temperatures drop the café sees more people in need of a warm meal. Here’s how you can support their mission:
- Go in to eat. The food is lovely, particularly the salads and soups!
- Email them about volunteering
- Make a donation, financial or in-kind (see their wish list in their weekly blog)
- Spread the word (share this post with friends and colleagues – see the green icon below). Their meal count helps their funding prospects.