Momento, a cafe turned public kitchen – Merapi 2010 experience

I got this address from Ratna Andayani, whom I thought was very concerned that I would not have enough meals during my short stay as a volunteer in Yogyakarta. And thus she texted me an announcement from our friend, Yetti Lutiyan, who is working here: a call for volunteers to cut, chop, slice and cook food for the Merapi refugees.

The first time I entered the compound I straight away felt at home. It was not the overfluous hot and cold tea, and food. Nor was it the nice welcome shown to me by Yetti (come to think about it, of course she was nice, she needed help!). It was the array of Canon 7Ds, 50D, and their various lenses that made me feel I came to the right spot.

She introduced me to a few key important people over there, explained the way they do things and the reasons behind it, and then straight away asked me to choose one of the two big tables where other people have been chopping vegetables.

Principally, the whole cafe was converted, from the parking lot until the very end backyard. The main cafe area was set as a logistic area. At first pak Yudhi, big boss, was also stationed here, but later he needed to be shifted out as the logistics grew. Chairs were all over  the place, sit as you wish as long as you were not blocking the way. A relaxing area was also set. This is where we rested, updated our online status, played online games, watched TV, or just killed ourselves (over and over again) with nicotine.

The whole lot of volunteers were divided into groups: chopping group, kitchen group, wrappers, drivers, and those ensuring distribution. Pretty well organised, considering how messy the place came to be.

And so my days of smelling garlic began. In the next few posts I will try to show how this public kitchen managed to produced between 10,000 – 15,000 meal packs daily, and some of the nice (and crazy) people who made it happened.

1. The chopping blocks

It started with just two big tables. Later we needed to expand with an extra glass table, and later the floor.  All sorts of knifes, all shapes of chopping boards. And a couple of cheap garlic and shallot semi-automatic choppers that needed to be replaced almost on a daily basis (not used to be handled by srong muscles!).

2. The hot kitchen

Two LPG stoves with two fire points each, a few charcoal stoves, and four or five BIG firewood stoves to cook rice. Each of this gargantuan stove can cook 25kg of rice in one  time. They were so huge that stirring could only be done using gargantuan spatula that looked like a paddle.

3. The wrappers

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you will find your servant is your master
Ohhh, you’ll be wrapped around my finger (the Police)

Three different rooms, tens of wrappers each, sat on the floor for hours, three to four thousands packs each meal, raced against time so refugees can eat on time. Every 20 packs was collected into a plastic bag. This very much eased counting during distribution.

4. Distribution Control

Someone, or a few, needed to organize who gets how many. This was the major task of the Distribution Control. Equipped with personal laptops, 1 fixed line and a few blackberries, they would call every day to the clients to ensure no pack is wasted. They also managed the fleet: who drove what to where.

Not shown here is the money table cum administration control. A lot of paperwork, sign-in sign-off, handover-takeover documents, another piles of papers, and a jammed printer.

5. Supporting stuff

Non-stop food and beverage. Vitamins and plasters (for those amateur choppers). 24h Wifi, a couple of television sets, and nice songs of the eighties and below, sung by the directors and Co. What else would you want in a crisis? Oh, and a hell of a lot of blackberries even though our fingers were cut and bleeding (and one Android) to accompany, together with plenty of power outlets to recharge. Oh again, and I got to taste fried grasshopper delicacy. Yummy!

8 thoughts on “Momento, a cafe turned public kitchen – Merapi 2010 experience

  1. gudgod…..i’m on tv..! singing that 80’s and BELOW songs….ha ha ha suddenly missed all those crazy hours.. matur nuwun pak ranan.

  2. “…was it the nice welcome shown to me by Yetti (come to think about it, of course she was nice, she needed help!” ==> of course, you’re right, Pak! hahahaha…

  3. thank you for mentioning my name there. It’s about a good timing when i got sms from Yeti n found out that u were there…just right on time.
    Happy Holidays!


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