It’s hard work feeding fifty people three times a day, seven days a week, but somehow, the New Life kitchen team manages to do a great job of it. The team consists of Pi Pen and Pi Noi, the two Thai cooks, Kees, our breakfast, cheese, and yoghurt wizard, and kitchen manager Jenna. New Life volunteers and residents on kitchen duty lend a helping hand with washing, chopping, peeling, and cleaning up.
Everybody who comes to stay at New Life does kitchen duty at least once a week. Strangely enough, nobody seems to like cleaning pots, but our approach is: if you can eat, you can help cook and clean. Ahh, the joys of living in a working community. Nevertheless, kitchen duty working meditation is actually a great chance to learn some Thai cooking techniques, acquire experience catering to large groups, see how produce fresh from the farm is used in meal preparation – and practice Thai.
Pi Pen and Pi Noi speak very little English, and most people living at the foundation don’t speak Thai. Therefore, to facilitate communication, we’ve set up a blackboard displaying frequently used words and phrases relating to food and cooking.
Some of these include:
“How can I help?” / Hai tam arai?
“To cut/chop” / Han
“Vegetable” / Pak
“The food is delicious” / Ahaan aroi
“Spicy” / Pet
“Smells good” / Horm
We’re adding to the list as we go along depending on which words we find most useful to have up there. It’s not always easy, but tone by mispronounced tone – always accompanied by smiles and gentle correction from Pi Pen and Pi Noi, as well as a few additional hand signals thrown in here and there – we understand each other well enough to produce nourishing meals for the whole community every single day.