For the last year or so, I have been blogging about the lessons I have learned while preparing foods and working with various ingredients in my kitchen, a place where I experience Zen as I prepare food made with love to serve to those whom I love. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the Zen of cooking. The other day, however, I had this epiphany that there are not only spiritual lessons to be learned from the preparation of the food, but about the choices about what we eat.
A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” Somebody can cook whatever they want for me, but I am the one who makes the decision to eat the food. A different type of food can be prepared, but if I do not eat it then I will never know if I like it or not. I will never know what I am not experiencing.
The other day I made a dish of pork and vegetable pot stickers with a stir-fry of cabbage and snow peas. It looked so good and I knew it would be wonderful. I served up the two plates for Zoë, I brought it to her, and she looked at me with that “are you serious” look. As she stared at me, I said, “Just give it a try.” The door was open; the question was whether she was going to enter.
She did and much to her surprise, she loved it. It did not look like something she thought she would enjoy. She did not think she was going to like the pot stickers, which she had never had before but she did. She wasn’t sure she was going to like any of it, but she did. She liked it so much she asked if there was any of it left for lunch today.
The other thing is that Zoë does not like Savoy cabbage. She will eat any other kind of cabbage, but she does not like Savoy cabbage because the leaves are wrinkled. So here is the secret, because I know she is not going to read this blog, the cabbage I used in making this dish was Savoy cabbage. One of these days I will tell her after I have gotten her to eat it a few more times. However, it dawned on me that sometimes we are so sure we are not going to like something that we do not try it.
How many things are there in this world that we have not yet tried, tasted, explored. I used to hate spaghetti sauce because of the way my mother prepared it. Her recipe was quite simple, catsup, cream cheese, water, and oregano. One day I was at a friend’s house for dinner and his mom had made pasta and gravy (they were Italian). When I first saw it, this wave of panic went through me, but not wanting to be rude, I tried it. I went through that culinary door. It changed my life. I asked her if she would please teach me how to make her gravy.
Perhaps that is why there are so few things I am unwilling to try more then once. I can never learn if this lesson is for me or not if I do not walk through the door. I am going to learn something whether I love what was prepared or not. What I have also learned is that I have to allow myself to eat something more then once. How different would my life have been if I had not been willing to try my friend’s mother’s gravy?
I was having a similar conversation the other day with some friends of mine about snails. One of them was saying how she had them once and they tasted like rubber. Another said they melted in your mouth. Sometimes it is not about the food itself, but who and how it is prepared. You will never what preparations you like and do not like if they never enter your mouth.
So my friends, the feast is prepared. The door is open. The question is will you enter?
Spirit has a sense of humor. This evening after serving Zoe a dinner I was pretty sure she would enjoy she said that was ok, but I really liked what you made last night better. Can you make that again soon? A new door is open :) Something tells me the best is yet to come.