Gift Culture: A Recipe for Halchal Cafe

by Kate Morales

The Halchal Saturday Cafe is a simple young experiment birthed from the timeless tradition of building healthy community around good food. Cooked up by some swapathgamis in Udaipur, Rajasthan, this recipe is less of a guide and more me wanting to share my experiences of and reflections on our cafe. I hope it serves as a delicious offering of inspiration for any and all forthcoming cafe varieties you might create in your community.

Serves anywhere from 10–50+ friends and guests.

Ingredients: (depends on seasonality and who and what is available in your local community)

— creative, crazy people

— slow food

— beautiful dreams and ideas

— kitchen or space for food prep



1. The general method is to marinate the guests with the ideas and slow food overnight. Stir occasionally.

2. While you and your guests are marinating, you will be left with the question of what to cook. We feel that, for our cafe, we explore health, ecology and spirit. We cook, as much as possible, without: a. processed oil. The operative word being processed. We realize oil is important, so we use naturally oily foods such as, coconut, peanut and sesame; b. processed sugar. Our sweets are made with gur, mishri, dates, mahua, raisins or honey; c. animal products. Our food is 100% vegan. We use local grains, especially local millets such as Ragi, Jo, Jowar, Rajgira, Sama and Bajra. We aim to source organically grown food and prepare everything without generating any waste. It is a zero waste cafe. An important lesson I learned about serving such bravely executed foods: you must tell people about the miracle on their plate. In my experience, they likely won’t believe the feat you have just accomplished. If that’s the case, you can invite them to cook with you the following week. Or, just engage them in a conversation around the importance of kitchens as the laboratories of our culture[s]. A Recipe for Halchal Saturday Cafe

3. Decorate your space as you would make a good pulao (rice and vegetable dish). It should feel warm and comforting — familiar even — but should be a textured experience that invokes the earthiness of a root vegetable, the sweetness of dried fruit, a spicy awakening of the senses, and a crunchy, cashew-y something that makes the space really creamydreamy. Most importantly, it should feature what makes it your own — upcycled CD lampshades, chairs from old tires, scavenged table tops from carom boards, old saris, etc. all work well.

4. Don’t worry if THE MAGIC CONNECTION doesn’t immediately grace your cafe with its presence. Plugging into local food systems does well to simultaneously bring you closer to understanding the interconnectivity and oneness of everything on our planet. Doing so also leaves you in quiet awe and wonder at the complexity of everything. Our cafe is a casual affair, and developing connection never feels overwhelming or burdensome. Gingerly put your fears and doubts aside, as you would the seeds of a particularly potent chili, to be thrown into the cosmic compost after everyone has gone home and you’re cleaning up.

5. Do not charge money. The concept of a gift economy resonates strongly within me, especially because I’m the kind of person who always used to believe that whatever you do for a job, it should be your passion. But, it turns out my passion is serving people, and I am beginning to suspect that I don’t want to take what I am passionate about and turn it into a commodified thing to do between nine-to-five. Exchanging love for money doesn’t feel very good, and so we at the Halchal Cafe promote a gift culture and economy. People pay what they want or are able to pay, which may come in the form of money, time, service, musical and dance performances, or any other gift they have to offer.

6. At the end of the night, you will know that the halchal of the fusion of friends, food, and ideas is an infinite one, perpetually reborn and exploding its way into our quietly awaiting future. Serve humbly with a side of mint chutney.