One of the first things every new student at King’s Academy notices is the peculiar lunch system. Students and teachers alike file into the Dining Hall and stand dutifully as the daily grace is offered in both Arabic and English.
“For food, for friendship, for the blessings of the day we give our thanks.”
After a burst of applause, everyone digs into the steaming plates in front of them. The clamor of silverware hitting porcelain and chairs scraping the carpet all fade into a cheerful din. Bowls and platters filled with food are passed around.
Dear Reader, this is a miracle! What are the intricate steps that allow these scrumptious viands to arrive on our plates and vanish without a trace? Most of us have no clue about where our food comes from, how it is prepared, and where it goes. The misty wall between the eater and the food must come down at once. The first step of our quest begins in the kitchen.
The kitchen at King’s Academy is a perpetually busy place, with men and women bustling about, darting from one station to another. The room has tiled floors, tiled walls, and stainless steel equipment constantly moving, churning out food. Everyone wears gloves; sanitation is held at superlative standard here.
Our guide, Mr. Salah Kurdi, spoke to us as we stared in amazement at this wondrous spectacle. He has been working with King’s Academy for eight years and says he is very happy with his employment.
According to Mr. Salah, there are more than sixty tables to serve during sit-down lunch and approximately ninety tables during advisory lunch. The chefs who take on the daunting task of feeding everyone deserve to be admired for their hard work and efficiency.
We were able to speak to Mr. Abdullah Shatat and Mr. Muhammad Halleeq, who were gracious enough to let us interview them between shifts. Mr. Abdullah described what it feels like to cook in the kitchen. “We love to cook food,” he said, “We love variety. We want to satisfy everyone’s taste and convince them that the food they are eating is great.”
What was their favorite food? we asked.
“Mansaf,” Mr. Muhammad said with a smile.
“Maqluba!” Mr. Abdullah chimed in.
The ingredients used in the kitchen come from a variety of sources. Most of the vegetables and fruits are local. Some, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are grown behind the cafeteria in greenhouses. The rest come from local markets in Madaba. When buying these ingredients, chefs always take into consideration any dietary restrictions that students or faculty may have.
Here, the chefs follow a program that ensures that meals are diverse and nutritious. Though the specific dishes change daily, each day’s menu always includes vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins. A set amount of food is made every day to accommodate everyone at King’s Academy—nearly one thousand people.
As expected, there are usually leftovers. The kitchen staff at King’s Academy make effort to ensure that these leftovers are not wasted. Mr. Salah said that those who work in the kitchen often take the leftovers home to their families. Untouched food is recycled and reincarnated into new delectable creations that we might enjoy the next day. While the system is great, not all food can be saved. After every meal, a large amount of food is still thrown into the garbage cans that stand behind the cafeteria.
“Wasted food upsets us.” Mr. Abdullah lamented. “We work very hard to make it, and then it is thrown away.”
“When we see wasted food, we wonder if it is a mistake on our part. Were we not good enough?” Mr. Muhammad sighed. Of course, there is always room for improvement.
This is the first article in a series about how we eat here at King’s Academy: where our food comes from, who cooks it for us, how it’s prepared, and what happens after the trays are put away. In the next issue, our reporters seek out the farmers who grow the food that we eat.