The zen in cooking

    There’s nothing zen-like about cooking. It has fire, it involves knives and all sorts of dangerous weapons, it requires the death of plants and animals. It requires speed: bad timing means either a burnt cookie or lunch at 5 pm (if preparations started at 9). Its purpose is consumption. Cooking by nature is so active and outward that it’s the opposite of zen. But in today’s Western hemisphere, zen has become an attractive concept: something that every field could claim to have to romanticize itself: zen in skateboarding, zen in running, zen in pistol shooting (sure…), zen in the art of digital privacy (?!), and my personal favorite: zen of the alcohol stove. Naturally, why wouldn’t zen be in the culinary media?

    Just as I don’t appreciate the all-too-casual usage of “Buddha” in naming vegetarian concoctions, I don’t appreciate this “zen-ization” of everything from stove to pistol. The word is simply exploited. It’s become an eye-catcher. It’s commercialized. Most of the things with the title “Zen in the Art of [insert gerund]” have nothing to do with zen, which their authors also explain in the text. But zenization has its good points:

    1. It can reflect the people’s true attempt to seek their peace of mind in whatever they’re doing, which could be a good thing as long as they’re also trying to minimize their activity’s damage to the world. So zen in martial arts is sensible. Zen in shooting? Only if your target is a board and your mind has no intention of damaging the board.

    2. It can induce a (small) number of people to actually learn about zen before throwing the word around.

    3. It boosts creativity. (See examples above.)

    Right now, I’m practicing zen in cosmology, or should I say, zen in doing cosmology research. If you sit in front of a computer everyday for over 8 hours, it’s pretty close to meditating. If you battle with computer programs everyday, you learn patience (cuz you probably shouldn’t beat the computers to death). You also learn the zen in Googling and the zen in asking your advisor for help. The moment you start dreaming about your code signifies your becoming one with the digital nature. When you fix that segmentation fault, you’ve reached Nirvana.

    Unfortunately I’m only between the next-to-last step and the last step, so Flavor Boulevard will continue its winter sleep. Meanwhile, let’s watch some zen in cooking.

    P.S.: It’s not a bad episode. It’s just a little forced. And Elizabeth Andoh reminds me of Alice Waters.

    P.P.S.: Dear Blog: I shall return after I make peace with the computer program. If I don’t survive, remember that I love you.

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    6 comments to The zen in cooking

    • Xuan

      Mai oi,
      You are such a writer. I enjoy reading your little piece. Best wishes to your zen in cosmology.
      Sound smart 🙂


    • Mai

      Hehe thanks Xuan, I get verbose sometimes. It’s probably the zen in sleep deprivation. 😉

    • I feel like chanting, “Omhhhhhhhh.” LOL
      Best of luck on your research. Hope you find nirvana in it (the peaceful feeling, not the heavy rock band — LOL).
      Happy holidays!

    • Bob

      So you are doing nothing in the cosmology lab as well, allowing the knowledge of the cosmos to come to you, as you do nothing and strive for nothing, want nothing, and in so doing, all will be as it is, and nothing shall be yours, yet you shall be richer for the nothingness.


    • Mai

      😀 Yeah, the truest part is nothing shall be mine. 😀
      What can I say, it was either math or the colors of ice cream, that was all I could think of after midnight. Strange.

    • Mai

      Thank you, Carolyn. I’ve found escape in quite a few heavy rock bands, too. They’re good stress releasers. 😀

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