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.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.