Kochi’s Maradu has many answers to the question — where can one grab an affordable meal? Like the rest of the city, it’s scattered with restaurants and cafes that offer solitary tables with decent food. But nestled under the shade of a tree at Poonithura, is a canteen that satisfies the soul as much as it satisfies a hungry stomach.
The ‘Capuchin Mess’, run by the Capuchin Shanthi Ashram, is a ‘pay-if-you-can’ canteen.
“It is a common space we’ve built for everyone where we provide basic hospitality,” Fr. Bobby Jose, who runs the canteen with the help of volunteers, tells South First.
“We cook food for people to come and eat. Whoever is able to pay, can pay whatever they wish,” he shares, elaborating on the real motivation behind the mess.
“Everything has a USP. For us, it is respect. What’s more important than food is that we create a space where there is respect.”
The thought behind Capuchin Mess was to provide visitors with the opportunity to sit down and share a meal with people from all walks of life.
Serving simple, fresh and flavourful meals at breakfast and lunch, its gates are open to everyone.
Tables are shared amongst families, students, working people and individuals to whom regular meals may be difficult to come by.
Loosely based on the ‘Reserve Coffee’ system, the canteen functions on payments made by visitors who contribute any amount they wish.
You can find a bright red postbox at the entrance where the nominal price for breakfast and lunch is written – ₹25 and ₹40, respectively.
Visitors who wish to pay, can use this as a benchmark or can make a contribution according to their discretion.
An amount in excess to the nominal fare, therefore, ‘reserves’ payments for the meals of others, especially those who are unable to make a payment.
“People can elegantly enter a system where everyone is essentially paying for everyone’s meals,” he adds.
“At the end of the day, we benefit from the mess. It allows us to connect with people, get to know them, learn from them and grow as individuals,” he notes.
“We rarely get the opportunity to interact with the people in our society. This provides that interactive window,” he says.
Fr. Bobby Jose and the Capuchin priestly order have other messes in Kerala under the name ‘Anjappam’ (five loaves). The name is after the biblical tale of Jesus Christ feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread.
Kochi’s Capuchin Mess is open from Monday to Saturday and serves breakfast from 7.30 am to 9 am. Lunch is available from 12.30 pm to 2 pm. They also serve breakfast on Sundays.