A day in the Potato kitchen and the folks who make it possible
The kitchen opens at 8:30 am by two sleepy Potatoes.
30 to 40 liters of fresh vegetable stock is made.
The contents of the fridge are ‘sussed out’ and the approximate menu is set.
Any beans to be used in the meal have been soaked and rinsed.
9:00 am. A few volunteers and another Potato help wake up the kitchen. Knives, cutting boards, aprons and head coverings are pulled out of their resting places as we prepare for an influx of people. Yawns are replaced by “good mornings”, “how are yous” and introductions.
By 9:30 am, the chopping of onions, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables is well under way. The grains are rinsed and cooked.
The steam kettles are also cleaned and ready to be used again.
10:30 am. 10+ bust bins (or buckets) are filled with veggies and greens; volunteers cut, stew, bake, roast, puree, chop, slice and dice ingredients. The conversations have shifted from small talk to remarks on the state of the world; politics; music; culinary arts and stories. Someone takes over the stereo and music fills the air.
11:00 am. The cooks start preparing the stew and the soup. The smells of a million freshly ground spices, oils, and cooking vegetables fill the air.
11:30 am. The kitchen is bursting with (hopefully) people and everything is in high gear as stew and soup for five hundred people comes together.
11:45 means it’s crunch time; 45 min until the serving. The cold salad is prepared and the bread is cut. Clean-up starts as dirty dishes used to prep the meal begin to pile up. Taste tests happen as the soup and stew near the end of their cooking.
By 12:00 noon the serving area is wiped down, the dishes are pulled out and the donation box is retrieved. There is less conversation as people hurry to feed the hungry mouths in the growing line of patiently waiting people.
There are plenty of dishes to be done and more people coming in to help.
12:30 SERVING!!!! The steam kettles (each holding up to 60L of food) are emptied into pots, which are carried out to the serving area. If it’s cold outside and sandwiches just won't cut it, food is set aside for the homeless serving outdoors.
Four volunteers get clean aprons and head coverings and get ready to serve the hot food. Two potatoes make announcements. One potato sets up the tables upon which cookbooks, patches, newsletters and solidarity items (any we may be distributing for like-minded organizations) are displayed.
The cafeteria is equipped with three bust bins and a compost bin.
The counter tops are cleaned, as are all remaining dishes from the morning. Then, the steam kettles are washed.
By 1:00 pm there is a steady stream of dirty dishes piling up at all three sinks, as well as in the cafeteria. Three to five volunteers and/or Potatoes are needed to collect these dishes, wash them and get them back to the serving area so that more patient folks can eat (if they don’t have Tupperware).
By 1:45 the line of Potato hungry eaters is slowing down, but the dishes are not. There have been a number of turnovers in the volunteers helping to serve allowing these people to take a break and eat in the back of the serving area. Joking relieves any nerves about the tastiness of the food and more stories are shared. There are “hoorays” and “uummmm’s” and “we pulled it off’s” as peoples' bellies get full and satisfied.
2:00 pm. The intense kitchen clean up continues as all the remaining dishes are cleaned and put away. The kitchen is quieting down as people return to classes and volunteers are going their separate ways. The big pots are washed, and any leftovers are transferred into plastic containers and stored in the fridge. The serving area surfaces are wiped down. The floor in the serving area, kitchen, cooking area, and hall are swept and mopped. The cafeteria is cleared of all bins and compost buckets. The garbage is taken down to the basement. The fridge is wiped down. If it is Wednesday, the fridge is thoroughly cleaned.
By 4:00 the kitchen sparkles like new.
The beans for the next day are soaked and things are put to rest. The kitchen is quiet and there are few signs that more than fifteen people worked together, to feed 500+ hungry folks.
8am the next day….
It all starts again with two sleepy Potatoes.