Bebeto Matthews, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Seventy-year-old Phyllis Coelho plunged her blue gloved hands into a plastic sink of gray soapy water and spent an afternoon last week cheerfully washing dishes "to support the revolution." The retired social worker had traveled from Belfast, Maine, the day before with her 78-year-old friend and fellow dishwasher, Jane Sanford.
They headed directly to the protest at Zuccotti Park because, they said, it was time to "show up."
At a table behind her, Nan Terrie, an 18-year-old law student from Orlando, Fla., was furiously chopping carrots and onions even as she juggled cell phone calls from people wanting to donate food, and handed hastily scribbled "to do" lists for other volunteers. Anj Ferrara, a 24-year-old artist, was tearing open some of the 40 boxed pizzas that had just arrived. And Tom Hintze, a 24-year-old bike tour guide, was trying to figure out the logistics of getting a truck and driver to pick up massive trays of pulled pork that someone wanted to send from Brooklyn.
The makeshift "kitchen" in the center of the park is the ever-evolving heart of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, managing to feed thousands daily even as it scrambles to figure out how to deal with an endless flow of donations.
But the people who work there — and those they serve — say it is much more, imbuing it with the same fervor that has marked the protests from the beginning.
"Revolution is fueled by eggplant parmigiana!" cried David Everitt-Carlson, smacking his lips and cleaning his plate after dinner. Sitting cross-legged in a cardboard box daubed with the words "I think outside the box" the unemployed 55-year-old said that, after months of homelessness, he had never eaten better.
Bagels and eggs for breakfast; pizza and burritos for lunch; fresh salads, organic vegetables and casseroles, pasta or barbecue chicken for dinner. Endless helpings — all fresh, all free. And all served amid the deafening din of protest: masks and marchers, drums circles and dancers, chanters gripping signs exploding with rage at corporate gluttony, all surrounded by barricades and a phalanx of police officers.
"There is so much ingenuity and innovation right here in this kitchen that is so lacking in so many other areas of the country," said Sam Tresler, a 32-year-old consultant from Brooklyn as he dropped off a pot of mashed potatoes he had cooked that morning. "It's inspiring."
The kitchen has no on-site oven or refrigerator or stove, just fold-up tables, tarps, racks of food and tanks of water.
Truckloads of fresh fruit and vegetables arrive daily from organic farms in upstate New York and Vermont and Massachusetts, steaming containers of chicken and rice, burritos and lasagna are sent from restaurants all over the city, tubs of Ben and Jerry's chocolate and cookie dough ice cream arrived one sunny morning (and was scooped by the company's chairman of the board, Jeff Furman), and there is a seemingly never-ending delivery of pizza pies, ordered by phone from supporters all over the world.
In the general spirit of the protest, the kitchen has no appointed leaders, just what volunteers jokingly refer to as an "organic hierarchy," meaning those that have been around the longest make the key decisions and assign the daily tasks. Newcomers — and they have come from Haiti and Colombia and Japan as well as from all over America — are generally put on cleanup duty. Others monitor the compost pack and environmental water filtration system.
There is a receiving table for locals who show up with bags of corn or a homegrown eggplant or a bush of basil. At another table a volunteer jots down the names of people who offer their home kitchens for protesters to cook and clean in.
- Here's a quiz to test your Star Wars...
- LA man builds small home for homeless lady
- Britain's new princess can't expect...
- Report highlights earth-shattering increases...
- 5 faith facts about Ben Carson: retired...
- Defending the Faith: Going up to Jerusalem
- Have you seen 'Age of Ultron'? Here are 50...
- 'Avengers' sequel is second biggest US opener...
- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: 'I am... 41
- Rage to relief in Baltimore as 6... 40
- Defending the Faith: Going up to Jerusalem 31
- Former tech executive Carly Fiorina... 19
- Governor, legislators leave 'baggage'... 14
- More Americans spending at least half... 13
- Famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson announces... 11
- Latest on police-custody death: 53... 9