Cooking for 80,000

The groaning, clattering machines never stop, transforming 12 tons of whole wheat flour every day into nearly a quarter-million discs of flatbread called roti.

…Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles.

The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies.

It is lunchtime at what may be the world’s largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city’s glimmering Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion.

More here.

I thought it was an excellent article, but I’m always wary when I get the warm and fuzzies from the NY Times. The feeling can be a fairly reliable barometer for nonsense. Any Sikh readers to weigh in?

7 thoughts on “Cooking for 80,000

  1. I have no idea how accurate the numbers are, but they seem about right. And you certainly get a warm and fuzzy feeling after being at Amritsar. And what she says about Sikhism is accurate

  2. I can verify that the food is indeed free, and delicious. And I was a fairly obvious outsider/non-Sikh, so they certainly welcome people from other faiths.

    The golden temple is absolutely incredible – a strong contender (among many) for the most incredible thing I saw & experienced in India.

  3. Didn’t read the NYT article but did visit the main Sikh temple in Delhi. There too they had a charitable kitchen, with the same menu. I was assured by people there that the food was free to whoever showed up.

  4. I got the same feeling about the golden temple when I visited and feel the article is very close to what my guidebooks had to say about it. Amritsar is also really close to the odd display of nationalism that is the Wagha border with pakistan, (recently profiled I think in the new york times) and also Jallainwalah Bagh which is the site of a large massacre of indian people by the British. Both have kinds of militant approaches to indian identity, which is kinda weird when compared with the golden temple and its warm and fuzzy-ness (but not the old Khalistan separatist movement stuff).

  5. Basically the same as Jason – of my two months in India (just got back), the Golden Temple was definitely among the highlights of my trip. The temple and complex is extraordinarily well run, clean and calm (quite a contrast to the loud and chaotic Indian streets) and the kitchen is efficient, welcoming and surprisingly delicious! If you go, go at night!!

  6. The free food is standard at all Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) worldwide – I believe the same is true for accommodation. I remember visiting the Gurdwara in Hong Kong and finding local Chinese taxi drivers stopping by regularly for a meal.

    I think that it is right to be a bit wary of the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling – while the Golden Temple is a pretty awe-inspiring place, everything is all not all rosy when it comes to religion in India. Lydia Polygreen’s article (especially the sixth paragraph) fails to recognise the big issues that remain surrounding religion in India – whether they be the caste system, the anti-Muslim sentiment that remains throughout much of the country, the fact that it has taken over 25 years for the government to produce a report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots to name a few.

    I realise that the intention of the article is not to discuss the state of religion in India but rather to paint a picture of Amritsar and the Golden Temple – but by including paragraph six Lydia is widening the scope of the article to religion in India – and to not acknowledge any of the on-going problems is a fault of the article.

    India is an incredible country, and with such a huge, and diverse population, it has done an admirable job of maintaining religious harmony for the most part – but it is important to highlight the continuing issues so that they may be addressed.