Feeding thousands of protesters every day is a surprisingly easy task, says the coordinator of the Santi Asoke protest kitchen.
Santi Asoke members prepare food in their makeshift ‘‘kitchen of merit’’ for protesters attending three rallies being held near Government House. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
Photographer Apichart Jinakul made a short 90-second video of the kitchen described in the story. It is quite interesting and in it you will meet ktichen coordinator Plookkwan Rakpongasoke who was interviewed for the story. You can choose to watch it. either before or after you read the story.
Masses of food for spiritual thought
Feeding thousands of protesters every day is a surprisingly easy task
Sacks of rice are piled high along one wall. Piles of cabbages, bunches of bananas and pumpkins take up space in another corner of the outdoor kitchen, where soft meditation music can sometimes be heard. On the stove, pieces of tofu bob up and down in the boiling oil inside a pan the size of a bathtub as they are stirred by a spatula the size of an oar.
The Santi Asoke group has set up its rong krua rong boon (kitchen of merit) to provide food for its supporters, who have been camping near Government House for two weeks to protest against the government's handling of the Thai-Cambodian border issue.
Feeding thousands of the sect's followers, plus supporters who join them twice a day, is no mean feat. But for Plookkwan Rakpongasoke, 54, coordinator of the central kitchen for Santi Asoke's Dhamma Army, the kitchen work is no trouble at all because all Santi Asoke members are willing to help and work together as a team.
Cooking vegetarian food is considered a kind of merit-making because it helps people refrain from killing animals. Everyone who takes a turn working in the kitchen feels delighted and not tired, Ms Plookkwan said.
Each day a team of about 10 cooks staffs the kitchen from 4am. Another team takes over in the afternoon.
The religious sect's members practise a simple, close-to-nature, self-reliant lifestyle. They are scattered around the country in provinces such as Nakhon Pathom, Si Sa Ket, Trang, Ubon Ratchathani and Bangkok. They take turns delivering rice, organically grown vegetables and fruit according to a fixed schedule so the cooks have plenty of diverse ingredients every day.
"We already live a self-sufficient life, so we do not feel it is difficult to be camping here," Ms Plookkwan said, adding the camp had expanded from one kitchen to three to accommodate protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy and Thai Patriots Network who are staying nearby.
Vegetable stew and som tam are favourite dishes that must be served every day. Stir-fried vegetables, curries and noodles are sometimes on offer. "We avoid fried food and sugar for health reasons. We are not only particular about the taste of our food and hygiene but also the container. We avoid using foam containers. If we run out of plates and banana leaves, we have to ask for permission to resort to foam containers," Ms Plookkwan said.
The kitchen cooks about 15 sacks of rice and about 10,000 baht worth of vegetables on an ordinary day.
All day long, adults and children clad in the sect's deep blue uniform keep busy preparing the raw materials into ingredients ready to be cooked. There is work to do throughout the day.
People who help in the kitchen all said they consider the job a form of training for the mind. The kitchen work may be considered insignificant but it teaches them to be patient and to make a sacrifice for the common good.
Samut Songkhram-born Mr Suthep said it took a lot of trial and error before he could cook as much as 12 kilogrammes of rice in a large pot at one time without it being burned or undercooked.
"I pay attention because I really want people to enjoy well-cooked rice," he said. "Good rice is delicious even if you have to eat it without accompanying dishes."
Mr Suthep said he first took part in a protest in 2008 during the PAD's 193-day rally at Government House. He wanted to contribute to the protest so he volunteered to cook rice. The months-long protest turned out to be an opportunity for him to compare notes with others.
Mr Aran, a villager from Sa Kaeo, said this was the first time he had taken part in a political protest. He has been eating the vegetarian food provided by the Santi Asoke kitchen for a couple of days and felt admiration for the sect's modest and sufficiency lifestyle.
"They are big on moderation," he said. "Each protester should take just enough food to eat. There should be no leftovers. They see the value of everything and emphasise that we waste nothing. I agree with their philosophy."
makeshift – using whatever is available and therefore not very good สำหรับใช้ชั่วคราว, ใช้ประทังไปก่อน
protester – someone who shows that they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, carrying signs, etc ผู้ต่อต้าน, ผู้ประท้วง
rally – a large public gathering of people to support someone or to protest against something การชุมนุม
masses – large numbers จำนวนมหาศาล
spiritual – religious, or related to religious issues เกี่ยวกับศาสนา
task – something that you have to do หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
sack – a large strong bag for storing and carrying things กระสอบ, ถุงขนาดใหญ่
pile – to put objects one on top of another; objects positioned one on top of another กอง
bunch – a number of things of the same type which are growing or fastened together กลุ่ม,ช่อ,พวง
meditation – the practice of thinking deeply in silence, especially for religious reasons or in order to make your mind calm การทำสมาธิ, วิปัสสน
bob – to move or make something move quickly up and down, especially in water ผลุบๆ โผล่ๆในน้ำ
boiling – heated to the point where a liquid forms bubbles and turns to steam or vapour เดือด
stir – to move a liquid or substance around, using a spoon or something similar, in order to mix it thoroughly คน
spatula – a tool with a broad flat blade used for mixing and spreading things, especially in cooking and painting ไม้พายใช้กวน ผสม หรือเกลี่ย
oar – a long pole with a flat blade at one end that is used for rowing a boat ไม้พาย
merit – the quality of being good and of deserving praise, reward or admiration บุญ, คุณความดี, คุณค่า
border – the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
issue – matter; a subject that people discuss or argue about ประเด็น
sect – a small group of people who belong to a particular religion but who have some beliefs or practices which separate them from the rest of the group นิกาย (ทางศาสนา),กลุ่ม, พรรค
feat – an action or a piece of work that needs skill, strength or courage ความสำเร็จ,ความสามารถ,ฝีมือ
no mean feat – to be a great achievement, especially with a difficult task
coordinator – someone whose job is to organise the various parts of an activity and make sure that all the people involved work well together ผู้ประสานงาน
refrain – to stop yourself from doing something ระงับ เลิก
delighted – very happy or satisfied about something ยินดีมาก,สุขใจ
staff – to work in an institution, a company, etc; to provide people to work there จัดหาคณะทำงาน
practise – to do something regularly, often according to a custom, religion or set of rules, or as a habit ทำตามหลักทางศาสนา
self-reliant – self- sufficient; able to do or decide things by yourself, rather than depending on other people for help พอเลี้ยงตัวเองได้
scattered – spread over a large area กระจัดกระจาย
take turns – (of a number of people) to do the same thing one after the other สลับกัน
fixed schedule – having activities take place at the same time each day, week, etc.
diverse – including many different types of things or people หลากหลาย
ingredient – one of the substances that are combined to make something ส่วนผสม
self-sufficient – able to do or produce everything that you need without the help of other people พอเลี้ยงตัวเองได้
expand – to make or become larger ขยาย
accommodate – to prepare what is needed for something ปรับให้เข้ากับ, เปลี่ยนให้เหมาะกับ, จัดให้เหมาะ
People’s Alliance for Democracy – the union of several groups protesting against the past government and which staged large protests against the Thaksin government as well พันธมิตรประชาชนเพื่อประชาธิปไตย
Thai Patriots Network – The group formed to pressure the Thai government into not approving any agreements which would result in the loss of territory to Cambodia เครือข่ายกลุ่มคนไทยหัวใจรักชาติ
stew – a dish of meat or vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a container that has a lid อาหารตุ๋น,อาหารเคี่ยว
dish – food prepared and cooked in a particular way อาหาร
particular – very definite about what you like and careful about what you choose จู้จี้, พิถีพิถัน
hygiene – the degree to which people keep themselves or their environment clean, especially to prevent disease สุขลักษณะ
container – something used for storing or holding things, for example a box, bottle, or bowl ภาชนะใส่ของ, หีบบรรจุ
foam – a soft light material, full of small holes, that is used for containers, seats, etc. ฟอง
permission – allowing someone to do something การอนุญาต,การอนุมัติ,การยินยอม
resort to – to do something extreme or unpleasant in order to solve a problem ใช้มาตรการรุนแรงในการแก้ปัญหา ยุติปัญหา
clad – dressed or covered สวมใส่
raw material – a basic material that is used to make a product วัตถุดิบ
insignificant – not large or important enough to be worth considering ไม่สำคัญ, ไร้ความหมาย
patient – able to wait for a long time without becoming angry or upset อดทน
sacrifice – important or valuable things given up, so that you or other people can have or do something else ความเสียสละเพื่อส่วนรวม
common – done or shared by two or more people ที่ร่วมกัน
common good – the benefit of everyone in a group ผลประโยชน์ของส่วนรวม
trial and error – a way of achieving an aim or solving a problem by trying a number of different methods and learning from the mistakes that you make การลองผิดลองถูก
accompanying – appearing with something else มากับ, ร่วมกับ
contribute – to be a part of a group or an activity and help it to be successful สนับสนุน
volunteer – to offer to do some work without being paid อาสาสมัคร
admiration – a feeling of respect and liking for somebody/something การชื่นชม, การยกย่องชมเชย
modest – not large in size or amount ไม่มากมาย
moderation – the quality of being reasonable and not being extreme ความพอประมาณ, ความรู้จักพอดี
leftovers - the food that remains at the end of a meal after you have finished eating สิ่งของที่เหลือ
emphasise – to stress something such as an idea, fact or detail; to explain why something is important เน้น
philosophy – a set of beliefs or an attitude to life that guides somebody's behaviour ปรัชญา
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