I’ve been feeling restless once again. I find it hard to stay in one place, have difficulty staying in the moment and releasing my ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. I feel an overwhelming sadness that cannot be cured by friends or the occasional glimpse of sunshine. I know what this feeling is because I’ve felt it many times before, always in London: it’s a sense of not belonging, of being constantly on the fringes of this society – I am the other. My heart yearns to tread the familiar streets of Portland, Canada begs to be explored a little more and the West Coast? She calls my name persistently and insistently, invading my dreams and promising me happiness. I can’t help but be drawn in and believe her – probably because I recognise the truth when I hear it.
One thing that struck me most strongly whilst I was living in and travelling around the West Coast was just how much better at looking after the earth my friends were. The emphasis was on living and consuming locally, supporting business in the area, reducing your carbon footprint, cycling and walking instead of driving, reusing, reducing and recycling. We are a people of waste and excess. With technology has come an increase in food production and survival – I joke with a good friend that without the wonders of modern medicine she wouldn’t even be here, her allergies and intolerance are so numerous; natural selection just doesn’t exist for 1st world countries. But what of those starving around the world? What of those starving in the UK alone? There is an estimated 400,000 tonnes of surplus food that is disposed of each year from supermarkets, shops, restaurants and many others in the food retail industry, food that could go to feed others, food that is perfectly good to be turned into a healthy and nutritious meal.
Living in excess is something I most certainly have been guilty of. It’s very easy to fall into bad habits when you grow up (for lack of a better word) spoilt, but it is equally easy to begin the process of unlearning these bad habits and start to do your part to help – it’s certainly something that I miss about the West Coast, the company of those who hold these values close to their heart. It’s understandable then that when I heard about The People’s Kitchen in Dalston I knew I had to go.
The People’s Kitchen gets together every Sunday at Passing Clouds in North London. The premise is that you join with complete strangers to prepare and cook surplus food, donated from supermarkets and houses, then sit down together and share in your efforts. And the price? A simple donation of your choosing, all which goes towards purchasing more kitchen equipment. This week’s kitchen was being held in the beautiful Eastern Curve Garden and despite the rain and the cold the energy was high, volunteers were pouring in by the dozen and smiling faces were asking how they could help.
I chopped vegetables, I pitted fruit, I helped make three fruit crumbles and ratatouille; my fingers were numb but I was happy. Afterwards I sat on the sofa and listened to performance poetry, shared a cup of tea with my friend Naomi and made new friends. We talked food, we talked travel, we talked about the balance of life. I could smell the crumbles baking in the open clay oven, could hear my friend Sam laughing in the kitchen with one of the organisers as they struggled over copious amounts of rice and cabbage on the campfire stove.
Then the food was being served, the three young boys who had attached themselves to me since I had let them help me pit cherries were hovering around me, sitting with me and asking me repeatedly, “miss? What’s that”, pointing to various items of food on their plates. And the food itself? It was copious and nutritious. There was a faux mushroom risotto, ratatouille, stuffed peppers, bread, roasted potatoes, salads, pastas, three fruit crumbles, and the people kept coming – there were at least forty, maybe fifty people, sat around at tables, sofas, on the floor, all eating together and chatting.
Truly, it was wonderful. I felt peaceful and happy, my belly was full and it was healthy and delicious, I smiled and laughed with strangers and we were doing something good, together as a community; I’ve never felt so at home in London and it was just what I needed. I promised myself that I’d return next week – how could I not be completely in love with this and want to be a part of it? You can too – volunteers are welcomed with open arms; so next Sunday, donate food, help to cook it or simply come along and find out a little bit more – I’ll see you in the kitchen.
The People’s Kitchen
1 Richmond Road
London E8 4AA
Until next time, peace and love.