Cooking for 1200-I can do that!

Update from the border by Sue Abrams, LWCF Board Member

How long does it take to peel 200 pounds of sweet potatoes? Answer….several hours if you have another person doing it with you. If you do it by yourself…you’re probably still doing it! And if you have a good assembly line you can make 600 ham and cheese sandwiches in no time. Definitely resume building skills (under special talents?) 

Peeling 200 pounds of sweet potatoes is only the beginning. Seven days a week a crew of volunteers arrive at 10am and starts the work of prepping for the next day. Then you plate-in this instance plating means putting the dinner in 27-30 industrial size aluminum pans and the salad in another 27-30 pans. The pans go into containers and the containers get transported to the bus station, transferred to those canvas wagons, and then walked across the bridge. The same wagons that go to the Sidewalk School, only now, instead of books and school supplies and goodie bags, there are containers filled with really delicious food. I can attest to that because they also make a pan for the volunteers’ lunch the next day. So yesterday we had fried chicken and rice and today it was lasagna. 

As we enter the camp, dragging our wagons, people along the way wave, say hello, smile at us, rush to help with the heavy wagons. Even in this seemingly hopeless situation they find something to smile about, something to laugh about. Some of the tents have set up small fire pits to cook their own food, or to sell it to others. Another example of how people live with what is there-commerce manages to emerge in even this most unlikely place. There is even an ice cream truck that drives through on the one main road. 

On an average night there are about 1000 people to serve. People start lining up well before we get there. The line seems to go on endlessly and you just hope you have enough food. Last night we ran out of water and lasagna. So the people at the end of the line got a lot of salad and apples! Not one grumble when that happened. Tonight I was the salsa lady…offering sauce for the pulled pork. The question of the night was, “Pica?” The answer was (in my very best, just learned Spanish), “No pica.” i.e. “Is the sauce hot…no it’s not hot.” Some were disappointed that it wasn’t pica, some relieved. I tried to sell the sauce no matter what, but it’s tough to do that when the only other phrases I know have nothing to do with convincing people to take the salsa! “Good luck” or  “Where are you going?”definitely won’t sell salsa!! 

Walking out of the camp we passed a tent with a group of people singing and clapping. That’s an image I have tucked away in my memory…another reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit. 

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