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Saturday, 14 January 2012

From Tim in Occupy Frankfurt

: Occupy Frankfurt - The Kitchen

Walking up to Occupy Frankfurt the first thing that somebody realises is the village-like formations and clear boundaries between the occupiers’ guilds. This camp has been given official license by the local government and has existed for 89 days without eviction. In this time and without the external threat by police, the occupiers have increasingly defined and distinguished themselves through their working groups. This has led to some sectarian bickering over preferencial organisation of dwindling resources. However the battle for preferences is always an unusual battle for second place. All groups agree on one point, the kitchen always comes first.

The camp is based in front of the European Central Bank building and the tents surround a ground-lit statue to the ECB. The canteen of the kitchen tent is situated on top of two of the ground lights which have now been switched off, but would have been darkened anyway from the mud and dirt that follows hungry occupiers rushing boots. Being underneath the giant sign, the people’s kitchen has an ironic official icon that advertises the autonomous free food for miles around. (Think following one of the glowing “golden arches” to locate an anarchist bomb-making meeting!)

The kitchen has been manned by two permanent chefs, Luke from Canada and Jay from the US/Germany, since day one. It is immediately clear that this consistency has allowed for a productivity rarely found in the working groups with more fluid membership. The floors of the kitchen and canteen area have been constructed by nailing smooth planks of timber on top of wooden crates and it is as flat, dry and stable as a local restaurant. The storage areas are always clean and ordered like a supermarket with older food at the front so that it is used and not wasted. Apart from the constant threat of a Daphne du Maurier inspired pigeon assault, the tent is a space of calm professional egalitarian construction that unites all it serves.

The kitchen is supported by donations of fresh food collected from supermarkets by a local charity organisation, and a constant supply of bread brought in on the backs of individuals and organised groups. Bread seems to be the staple diet of this occupation. In George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia the Spanish workers’ militias threw away excess bread while the people in the towns suffered crippling shortages. In a funny twist of the times, the excess bread supplies of Frankfurt guarantee none of the resisters in Occupy ever go hungry. The amount of food available that would otherwise have been thrown out forces someone to question why anyone should ever be allowed to go hungry. It also flies in the face of the demand and supply justification of current increases in the price of food world wide.

The gas stoves in the middle of the kitchen burn constantly warming litres of freshly made vegan soups. Every meal seems to be inspired by the pyramid on the back of cereal boxes which dictate 6-8 serves of fruit and vegetables a day. For a meat eater the daily egg salads provide some brief relief. There is a threat that the diminishing level of monetary donations will bring an end to the supply of coffee, margarine, cheese and milk, however the current supply of green stuffs alone will last for a month at least.

Anyone who asks what can the Occupy movement possibly achieve should see the kitchen at Occupy Frankfurt. Rather than a patronising charity hand-out van, the people working and the people eating are from the same community. The homeless and the students and the workers and the actors stand around eating together. Luke and Jay work 24 hours a day for the love and collective celebration of creative cooking. No one complains and all plates are finished. Within our current social dilemmas and the constant outcry about the conspiracy of governments failing to limit the increases in the price of living, this sort of community organising is a bubble of progressive productivity. If kitchens such as this could be established in all local communities and neighbourhoods the need for charities and frustrating middle-class guilt would be dramatically weakened.

In light of the many divisions between groups within this occupied village, one thing is certain: Everyone loves the kitchen tent!

Tim Frank Davis is a well known Occupy Sydney participant travelling around the European Occupies

1 comment:

  1. from Paul (fellow sydney occupier long hair,hippy type)
    hey Tim i was wondering where you got to. excellent observing at Frankfurt. i am of a similar opinion that the kitchen is of vital importance to the movement. having a sustainable operation sourced from supplied labour, food donations, accessing free food (dumpster diving etc) trips to markets(where good food much cheaper than supermarkets) the mind boggles how far this idea can be stretched (once harrassment of police has been limited through the courts-especially applys to sydney)
    of course free anything strikes at the heart of greedy capitalism and it will be challenged wherever bigots reign