By Fiona Sprint, Designer at Coley Porter Bell
Here at Coley Porter Bell, we are very lucky to be given an extra day off each year to volunteer for a charitable cause of our choice. I decided to take up this fantastic offer, and when searching for how to donate my time I discovered ‘The Castle Canteen': a soup kitchen in Elephant and Castle that only uses surplus donated fruit and veg to make delicious and wholesome meals for the community free of charge.
When I arrived I had no idea what to expect, and was a little nervous as I lingered outside a church on New Kent Road waiting to be let in. There were four of us volunteering, all new to the experience and awaiting instruction. A friendly, eccentric Scottish lady called Toni arrived with a huge bag full of donated fruit and veg of all shapes and sizes. She poured it out in front of us, and to our surprise said “Right, you’ve got two hours, three courses, and about 20+ people to feed. Give me a shout when you know what you’re making.”
There was initial blind panic and a mild understanding of what it must feel like to be on an episode of MasterChef. However, thankfully it all came together when we realised we had enough donated veg to make a tasty carrot and parsnip soup, enough tomatoes to mash into a sauce for a cauliflower and potato curry, and a generous helping of peaches to turn into a peach crumble.
So, after two hours and a lot of laughs, (and a brief moment of “How did we forget to cook the rice for the curry!”), we were ready to serve. The best thing is that this canteen is open to absolutely everyone, from the homeless, right through to the elderly who are just looking for company, or can no longer cook for themselves. We brought out each course to the table and were relieved when people asked for seconds. It was really quite incredible to see what you can do with some mis-shapen vegetables and a few willing ‘chefs’.
I can honestly say it was a truly worthwhile and enjoyable experience, and I will definitely be signing up again next year.