Monday, August 11, 2008


Our alarm is set to NPR, and on Sunday, still half asleep, I heard a familiar voice yell,"Jim, take it easy on those biscuits, they'll turn into rocks!" Steve Badt is an old friend from Washington, DC, and he's yelled at all of us at one time or another. Steve was featured on Sunday's Morning Edition for the amazing work he does with Miriam's Kitchen, a program to feed restaurant-worthy meals to the homeless in Washington, DC.

Steve could have been a chef in any of the great restaurants in that city. He did own a restaurant for awhile. Friends who should have known better went to work for him, to help him out when he was just starting. Fortunately they were young and quick on their feet. Dishes and dishrags were thrown. The last straw was when our friend Patti had to duck a flying sauce pan. We were used to him yelling at us, but this physical assault added a new dimension, and resignations were turned in so friendships could be salvaged.

The thing is, with Steve, no matter how ugly it gets, there are never hard feelings. His nickname is Pash--sort for passion, because of his strong opinions, love for poetry, and his way of getting in your face about anything that matters to him. I think I'm the only one who stands up to him in the kitchen. That's because I only bake when I'm around him, and I'm a better baker than he is.

He's been operating Miriam's kitchen for years now. He makes the most amazing meals for the homeless. He makes them feel like human beings. He gets up every morning at 4:30 and rides his bike to the church where he makes quiches and omelets and farmer's market salads and orchestrates a whole bunch of dedicated volunteers. At 7 am, the doors open and a line of homeless people pass through the cafeteria style line and they get to choose their breakfast. Something as simple as getting to make a choice for what you are going to eat makes a huge difference.

He gives them a hot, healthy meal, but mostly, he gives them some dignity to start their day.

I'm going back to visit in the fall. I've just signed up for one of his breakfast shifts. He wants me to make 30 pies. I'm excited and honored. I'm also glad I'll be armed with a rolling pin.

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