don't get me wrong–i went to the temple this weekend primarily and most importantly to take part in a very special event on the buddhist calendar, in my community and in my family's life. but i also get very excited about the added "bonuses" of the day too: seeing a hundred lovely kids in white saris and clothese who have just observed "sil" and beautiful decorations blowing in the wind on a sunny day. and then there's the food. volunteers sign up to make one of about 10 specified dishes for about 40 people, some organize the plates, dessert and water, and seamlessly, about 300 people are fed with enough for seconds for whomever has the room.
the heaping plates above (which is the normal portion at these potlucks whether you're a burly 50-year-old man or a skinny preteen girl), is laden with rice, dal, curried jackfruit, potatoes, mallum (parsley or cabbage lightly seasoned and fried), coconut sambol, and curried or deviled soy meat. all freshly made, all homemade, all pretty spicy–my favourite combination.
these pictures doesn't do justice to the amount of food on the tables. two tables with "identical" offereings are set up, with people snaking down both sides. oh, and a small (regular-sized) table beyond those, with some backup dishes that are waiting to be swapped in when a tray dwindles. everything is delicious. everything. since many volunteers are asked to bring the same dish, my favourite part is getting to taste the different ways people from the same community make dal, curried jackfruit or sambols. even the rice is different in every tray with some opting to make "raw" red rice, long-grain parboiled, basmati and even short grain white rice (though that's not typical). and i wish i had a picture to show you who often gets to enjoy the few leftovers…curry-eating squirrels. they have their own food "plate" in one of the trees and i've seen them bypass plain fruit for spicy rice, curries and pickles.