I cook meals for the Western Canteen in Amritapuri, India. On the western side of things we have a Café that serves to-order items like pizza, veggie burgers, sandwiches, salads, cakes, coffee, etc., and right across from that is a canteen line where everyone just takes the meals prepared for that day. Those canteen meals are what I cook.
Our café building however, is too small to support the ever increasing number of westerners in the ashram (usually more than a thousand per day), so last year I moved my six stoves for cooking, from my safe place inside the western café, to the awe inspiring juggernaut that is the Indian kitchen. The Indian kitchen not only cooks for the sprawling ashram residents and visitors but also for our entire Amrita University Campus across the river. That is tens of thousands of meals per day.
When your work is only in western departments it is sometimes easy to forget that you are in India at all. The ashram is a close knit environment where it is easy to get lost in your own comfortable routines. So I was a little nervous at first to move out of the western kitchen, purely because change is not my favorite thing, but it turned out to be a tremendous blessing in every way.
Although the Indian kitchen is massive, everyone knows their place and their part, and so the work always runs smoothly. Before moving there I knew all of the main movers and shakers, from the Indian tours where my work is with that team, making the Indian food, but I didn’t know the 100 or so moving parts, all vital in their own way.
Because it is such a big kitchen there tends to be less chance for each of us to take ourselves too seriously. That creates a very peaceful environment where everyone is dedicated to the common cause. Though the work is always done in a particular and structured way, the people are very playful and dedicated.
Of course there are sometimes arguments and power struggles because this is life after all, but because we are used to working under such intense conditions, the emotion is understood and forgotten quickly. Working here has been a constant lesson in moving on, because there is no time to stay in the past.
Here are many of the beautiful faces that make up our work place.
Written for Writing 101: Character study, an introduction to someone who is new to you (me)