I believe it will be something that I will miss for some time.
The lunch ritual in Riverkids starts this way. The cooks (mostly Cambodian men) for the day will start their rounds collecting money from people who will be lunching in during the day, and set off to go to the market to get ingredients for lunch.
The cooks will then return triumphant, loaded with the day’s lunch supplies. Each meal involves different ingredients and food bought, depending on how many people are lunching in (which will hence decide how much money is pooled together). On days where there are many lunch participants, there would be meat and fish bought, and sometimes even dessert (fruits). One unforgettable fruit is a honeydew and avocado-like fruit, which Cambodians dip with sugar!!
What follows next is a one-hour multisensory act that takes place in Riverkids’ kitchen, involving the sharpening of knives, chopping of the day’s kill, whipping of eggs, mixing of sauces, all of which are interspersed with huge doses of bantering and laughter. This is followed swiftly by fragrant whiffs of the days’ dishes that float up to the second level, into the volunteers’ room where Dawn and I do our work, as we wait for lunch to be served.
When everyone is gathered at the table, the main cook (usually the Education director) will dish out the last dish. Lunch is eaten using a small plastic spoon; while it can be a tricky balancing act using itto eat long, leafy vegetables, one acquires the skill after some time. Bantering goes on all the time, mostly in Khmer, yet seldom do I feel like an outsider.
This is bliss in Cambodia.