Willie Shubert has a keen – some might say obsessive – interest in salads.That much is clear when he arranges his spread of homemade cheese crisps; beets, kale and tofu each prepared three ways; and rare black rice and sticky, pillowy rice cakes. These are the tools of a kind of gospel — salad gospel.

It’s likely no one in town could share the gospel quite like Shubert, a native Californian with an easy , “The Universe is a Salad: Texturescapes,” is Shubert’s contribution to Knowledge Commons DC, an organizer , is one of the most popular classes in the arsenal.

And dozens of quirky courses offered by Knowledge Commons D.C.

Among a handful of new organizations in Washington that recognize that regular Joes have know-how worth sharing, Knowledge Commons assumes that you might be interested in attempting aerial photography via balloon, and that there’s someone in this city of highly educated (dare we say, nerdy) people who could teach you.

Knowledge Commons’s “semesters” are monthlong sessions, each separated by a few months. And when it comes to classes, the quirkier, the better; the current session will continue with a flurry of classes through March – every day seems to bring another guerrilla yoga, abandoned-building walking tour, or “Organic Chemistry for Fun and Profit” class. The next session won’t begin till June.

KCDC’s surprising tenet? That it shouldn’t cost anything to learn. The teachers are volunteers, so the students aren’t on the hook to pay (though it’s suggested that students contribute a few dollars for the materials for some of the classes with heavy food components.) In keeping with the idea that education can be had without spending a penny, the spaces they hold the sessions are typically donated; last session a beat-making class was held at the Hirshhorn, and Jedi and Trekkie “fandom” event was at the Georgetown Public Library.

In the case of Shubert’s class, the idea of salad as a metaphor is intriguing enough to lure couples, guests from the hostel, including one from Japan, a pair of Howard University students and a half dozen others to at the International Hostelling’s D.C. hostel on 11th Street NW to learn more.

If the philosophy of salad-making didn’t capture everyone’s attention, the heavenly smells wafting over the class certainly did.

Kaleena Francis, a web developer from the District, came to expand her definition of salad beyond lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. When the class lined up to sample Shubert’s ingredients and try their hands at making a sophisticated, “textured” salad, she piled up her plate with items she didn’t usually eat, and skipped dressing entirely, so she could taste each flavor clearly. Students raved over the crumbled marinated tofu, cooked beets and a crispy oven-baked kale that many confessed they’d never thought they’d enjoy.

“I’m interested in classes, in learning things,” says Francis, “things we wouldn’t have otherwise have access to.” Next on her eclectic list of interests? The class about aerial photography and mapping.

“I find it really amazing that these people come to classes and they have nothing in common but a shared interest,” Shubert says.

But the gratification that comes with teaching (and feeding) others isn’t all the foodie gets: “One of the things I’ve realized,” he says, “is the non-financial benefits of teaching.” The son of a personal chef, he’s hoping to start up a catering business some day, and

Lucy Burnett