Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not a light lunch

Last Thursday I, along with three co-workers, took my Habitat-weary muscles about a mile up 14th to spend a couple of hours doing a little more good in the world. PwC is a big supporter of Martha's Table, a local organization that provides all kinds of services to those in need - education, daycare, a decent meal - and we usually send a group of volunteers up once a week to do whatever needs to be done for a couple of hours. The Martha's Table folks have partnered with local farmer's markets and often receive donations of any produce left at the end of the day. Someone must have had a bumper crop of kale this year, because the walk-in fridge was absolutely filled with the stuff. Giant Rubbermaid totes, heavy duty garbage bags, cardboard boxes - overflowing with kale.

So, in an effort to actually make use of it before it turned all nasty and squishy, the four of us set to removing the leaves from the stems and tearing those leaves into bite-size portions, then dumping pan after pan into the sink for a thorough washing before its conversion into soup. Two hours of kale shredding - I was pretty grateful for the latex gloves, or otherwise my hand might have been stained a lovely shade of green for the foreseeable future. Actually, it was pretty amazing to see what four sets of hands can accomplish in a couple of hours when faced with an astounding pile of produce.

As much as we would have loved to stick around for some kale soup (ok, not really - we were pretty kaled out at that point), our stomachs were gurgling for something a little more hearty. We'd just spent the last couple of hours in a ginormous kitchen surrounded by food and leafy green things, so of course we turned to a location where the food carries a much more neutral color scheme (you know, the browns and tans of the world), the land of starch and grease, a D.C. icon. Ben's Chili Bowl is conveniently located just a few blocks away, so we walked on over and indulged in heart-attack fare for a late lunch. I had my first taste of a half-smoke, and while there's really no definitive answer for how it gets its name, D.C. lays claim to this slightly spicy sausage that's a notch above a hot dog. Throw it on a bun, smother it with chili and onions, throw some potato chips on the side, and you've got one nap-inducing lunch ready to go. I made the first bite with a knife and fork, and after being chastised for being so neat, I proceeded to throw caution to the wind (even wearing a white sweater - I mean, I was inviting danger), cover my hands in spicy chili, and chow down. Major clothing crisis averted by strategic neck-craning on each bite. Cube buddy Stephanie opted for the chili cheese fries, which are equally greasy and also tasty. Maybe my body could use some kale.

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