On our way to the Ananda Kurjana Ashram and Children’s Home in Indonesia, our driver explained that the orphanage was completely vegetarian. Our youngest son leaned over and whispered, “Can we pull over for a side of beef before we get there?” As soon as we devoured our first meal, we knew not only were we not missing anything by not eating meat, we were nourishing our bodies in ways we had never experienced.
As a self-sustaining farm in many ways, this property had a pulse. It was palatable as soon as we arrived. Every cliché about talking and singing to plants, cooking with love, respecting the land and its need for rest, and eating what is in season rushed into my consciousness. Words are insufficient to capture the food at the orphanage so I am going to rely more on pictures than words this week. It was hard to even snap pictures, as asking 30 growing kids to wait while you take a photo, didn’t seem quite right. The following are some moments captured that I hope will give you a window into this experience …
The outdoor and only kitchen on the property had three areas. Toward the rear of this photo was where the open fire cooking took place, and where the pots and pans and dishes were washed and stored. The girls on the left with their backs turned were using hot plates and woks for frying bananas. The bucket and box in the foreground of the picture represent all of the non-organic waste generated by up to 40 people in a day.
Some days breakfast consisted of sweet soup and fruit from the surrounding trees. It was usually served with a loaf of bread made in the rustic bakery located on the corner of the property. On our first morning, we devoured a hearty green lentil and coconut milk soup, fresh bananas, sweet bread, and papaya.
These papayas were available for a snack for the kids living at the Ashram any time they were hungry. The kids always grab a friend as the fruit is too much for one person! They will invite each other to a papaya party which means, pick the fruit, cut it down the middle, grab a spoon, and digs in. This was Max’s first papaya party and he explained, between bites, that the fruit tasted like a perfectly blended tropical smoothie.
The coconuts and the mangoes were also available for kids when they were hungry but took a little more finesse in the picking. The coconut water was literally effervescent and tasted carbonated. It was the most invigorating glass of anything I have ever sipped. The girls’ favorite afternoon snack were green mangoes dipped in a mixture of chopped chilis, sugar, and water. My mouth still salivates when I think of the crunch, and the heat, followed by the sweet.
Our kids declared their favorite dish was gado-gado layered with bean sprouts, green beans, silken tofu and a velvety peanut sauce that married it with the rice. My favorite bite on the farm was the chili peppered tofu pictured above. It was wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted over the fire and it had the consistency of roasted goat cheese. To say I will dream of this snack does not begin to do it justice.
The kitchen was the heart of this children’s home, even for the new “kids.” Henry would get up early to meet Benji on the kitchen stairs.
The rice was the first thing on the open fire each morning and it would move from the flame to a laundry basket where it was available for hungry hands throughout the day.
The absolute best part of the food at the farm were the people that shared it with us. Mining for every last piece of coconut meat, while kids played in the field behind us, drowned by the birdsong is something that resonates in our experience every day. This photo captures one moment that we are still grasping to fully understand because of the overwhelming grace and peace that accompanied the experience.
This food was something so much more than daily nutrition. It literally pulsed with connection to the people growing it, the community eating it, and the generous spirit of the man in charge. He has taught these kids to trust there is enough food because they know how to grow it, harvest it, cook it, and take only what they need. They waste very little and share more than you can even imagine. As I sat down to eat my last bowl of green papaya and black bean soup at the farm, I held the bowl for a long time giving thanks for the understanding of what soul food truly means.
Between now and December 31st, 2016, we are giving 50% of the profits from every Livit sale to the Ananda Kurjana Ashram and Children’s Home in Indonesia. As a Livology community, if we sell 2,000 Livit subscriptions by year-end, we can support Dada’s work in awe-inspiring ways.
Please forward this issue of Livology to a friend who may be interested in this story of giving, or use these easy social options:
Today’s Tweetable: Vegetarian Soul Food