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When a Temple Becomes a Restaurant

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When a Temple Becomes a Restaurant
“You put compassionate energy out, and then people come together who wouldn’t normally be together.”
Reverend Matthew Fisher

If you look carefully, you’ll see a rabbit in the moon instead of a man. The rabbit is the focus of a Buddhist Jataka tale, which are stories of Buddha’s previous lives. In one story, “The Rabbit in the Moon,” Buddha was reborn as a selfless rabbit, who eventually promised to sacrifice himself so that others could eat.

That story gave the Moon Rabbit Café its name when it started in 2014. Hosted by the Reno Buddhist Center (820 Plumas Street), the Moon Rabbit Café happens five times a year (every other month except for December), and is a pay-what-you-can community gourmet dining experience.

“It’s kind of a pop-up restaurant at the Temple,” explains Reverend Matthew Fisher, one of the Center’s resident priests.

The main hall is the waiting room, and the fellowship hall serves as the dining room. The Center pays for the food, but all of the labor is donated. Area chefs volunteer their time to plan and prepare the menu, while others give their time to serve, bus tables and clean up afterward.

Ninety percent of the volunteers come from the Temple, but others are just locals who want to help. “We have Scout troops, business co-workers, families and individuals,” Fisher says. “There’s always a place for anyone who wants to help. If they don’t have serving or food prep skills, we can have them check people in or bus tables.”

Since there are no reservations, planning for food can be challenging. “It’s hard to know who’s coming, but we plan on between 200 and 300,” Fisher says.

Any extra food is donated to the We Care volunteers on Record Street. “It works out well, so nothing goes to waste,” Fisher says.

A Persian Interlude

The next Moon Rabbit Café takes place this Saturday, August 24, from 4 to 7 p.m. and features Chef Jay Modha. Diners will enjoy a fresh spinach salad sprinkled with dates and almonds, minced beef/lamb Koobideh kabob (grilled skewered meats) and eggplant and pomegranate Bademjoon (stew) with jeweled Basmati rice, followed by sweet rose water rice pudding. Many options are gluten-free and vegan.

Humble Beginnings

The idea for the Moon Rabbit Café came about as Midtown started becoming more of a destination. “Before it had been a place where a lot of people on fixed incomes might have lived, but then all of these new restaurants started showing up,” Fisher explained. “While the restaurants are cool, they’re not the kind of places a lot of these residents can afford to eat.”

The Moon Rabbit Café is intended to be a place where everyone, regardless of income, can come together and share a meal. “This is our way of weaving the community together,” Fisher explains. “Everyone is invited to join us. We have those who donate generously, which pays for others who don’t have as much money to spend, so it all works itself out in a wonderful way.”

Fisher says his favorite part is watching attendees commune with each other. “You see people meet each other in the waiting room and then they start chatting and end up sitting together for dinner,” he says. “Later you walk past them and it’s like they’ve known each other forever.

“You put compassionate energy out, and then people come together who wouldn’t normally be together,” Fisher adds. “That’s a lot of fun.”

How You Can Help

Helping can be as fun as showing up, eating and perhaps paying a little extra. Or if you’d like to do more, they’re always looking for volunteer chefs, wait staff and people to clean up. If you’re interested, please email moonrabbit@renobuddhistcenter.com

“We’d also love it if people could help spread the word, as the only advertising we do is on Facebook,” Fisher says. “And people sharing our event extends the idea even further out into the community to people we may not know.” You can stay up-to-date on future events by following the Moon Rabbit Café Facebook page.  

“We’re trying to create an opportunity for interconnection to happen and to be there for each other,” Fisher explains. “There have been a lot of tragic events in the past few weeks, and a wonderful antidote is to be friends with our neighbors. This is a way to do that.”

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