The Kitchen of Love

Heartfulness eMagazine|June 2020

The Kitchen of Love
JOHAN DE SMIDT is a journalist and photographer from Cape Town, South Africa, who visited the Heartfulness Headquarters at Kanha Shanti Vanam before COVID-19 struck, and documented some of the activities. Here he showcases the kitchen, which since March has been supplying meals to up to 50,000 disadvantaged people per day in the wake of COVID-19.
JOHAN DE SMIDT

To find the secret ingredient in the kitchens of the Kanha Shanti Vanam ashram, you have to start your hunt before dawn. That is when the cooks are adding spice to their day with a Yoga wake-up routine. “They are a bit dull when they arrive, so we are boosting them, waking them up,” says the kitchen manager, Mr. Moganty Adinarayan.

On the morning that we visit the kitchen, Liliya Gasilina, a Russian volunteer Yoga instructor, is guiding the cooks through their asanas at 5 a.m. This dose of waking up will certainly come in handy, because the kitchen has suddenly been informed that they have to cater for many more than the 2,500 people they expected for Sunday meditation. But this is par for the course for Adinarayan and his team of workers – every day brings its own surprises and they are used to changing plans at short notice. To be effective, they have to remain flexible, and the meal planning has to be spot-on. It is also of utmost importance to have close communication with the main gate officials who constantly update them with the latest attendance figures.

It is no mean feat to cook three meals a day for over 78,000 people, as the kitchen staff did for the inauguration of the Kanha Shanti Vanam meditation hall in February 2020, and still be able to hit the ground running when work starts at 4 a.m. every morning. In one stretch, the kitchen can provide food for 30,000 people. On this Sunday, after most of the people have left, they are still cooking for more than 2,500 people. “We always cook for 100 more than expected,” Adinarayan says. On the breakfast menu today there is idli, sambar, rice and banana chips, and if the scale of the cooking is awe-inspiring, the quantities of ingredients used is even more mind-boggling. Just for today, a total of 100 kgs of raw rice will be required to satisfy the visitors’ appetites.

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June 2020