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Sikh Langar

For the November 2007 issue of Saveur Magazine, I wrote a short piece about the Sikh langar tradition of communal meals. The article also highlights the parade hosted by the Sri Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Yuba City on the first Sunday of every November. (But read my related blog entry for corrections to the text.)

One late night, in the heart of California’s Central Valley, I managed to lock myself out of my car. Fortunately, across the street arched the gate to the Stockton Gurdwara Sahib, an historic Sikh temple tucked between new homes and the slowly shrinking peach, plum, apricot and almond orchards of this fertile region. A priest showed me to a simple room where I was welcomed to stay the night. In the morning, Mohindar Singh called triple-A, directed the mechanic to my car, and graciously pretended to own my rally-ready Subaru WRX. He also made sure I ate a generous breakfast of buttery roti, spiced lentils, rich yogurt, and homemade lemon pickles before heading back home.

Whether it’s a sole traveler in need or the near one-thousand Sikh who arrive every Sunday for prayers, the Stockton temple provides communal, vegetarian meals three times a day plus any number of sweet and savory snacks in between. The langar, or free kitchen, is an expression of brotherhood and community service, central tenets in the Sikh religion. Temples from Ludhiana, Punjab, to Lodi, California, will share food and shelter with any visitor no matter the day or hour, religion or caste. Local Sikh families donate equipment, ingredients, and—most importantly—the labor required to prepare generous amounts food.

November 2007