Zen cooking according to the teachings of the master-less monk Feng Sa Sha (风洒沙, Wind Sprinkling Sand) is, unsurprising perhaps when considering the radical fundamentality of Zen, not only the most inexpensive and easy as well as perhaps most importantly, great tasting of all cooking, but moreover it is the most healthy and wholesome diet – no surprise that it is consistent with and full of good science.
We think that the small expensive things taste good because we finish eating them so fast, and then we want more, and this desire for more of it is henceforth associated. The cheap stuff tastes so good; we only stop eating when we are already almost sick of it. Actually, the expensive would make us revolt much faster if ever we were to try and eat as much of it. There are plenty of such considerations. The expensive may have been faked. The cheap is not worth faking. Zen understands such psychology almost automatically, implicitly, and therefore, its cooking is immune to such deceptions.
Zen cooking is as radical as all of Zen. Zen is mostly known through its meditation, but Zen meditation is the Zen conclusion of its Wittgensteinian therapeutic philosophy. It is the most radical and purist form of yoga, only its most essential exercise: Sitting straight!
Here is a Zen recipe according to the teachings of Dr. Feng:
Millet, which is “small rice” (小米), water, and eggs in their shells are put together in a pot and left alone, perhaps in the sun. At some point, perhaps because the monk likes to take a break or he must wait for something, there is time to boil the food in the pot for three or four minutes. Then the heat is switched off, and the monk does something else and forgets about the pot. The “work part” of the cooking is already finished. Time and the heat in the rice will slowly bring it to perfection. The eggs still reside in the rice, so the eggs’ white will be heated to complete coagulation, but the yellow, the yolk, will be partially still fluid – the French soft egg the English way. The yolk coagulates at 62 to 65 degrees Celsius. Therefore, although the center is still fluid, it has been above 59 degrees, sufficient to deal with any salmonella that may have been present.
Yes, whether the yolk is partially fluid depends on the size and nature of the vessel, which each monk may have the pleasure to explore starting from longer times with bigger vessels, to make sure the yolk is never too fluid. Now comes the most important part of this recipe. Zen cooking and consummation are integrated, are one, despite seeming very far from each other in time, to the uninitiated.
The monk does whatever he does until he is hungry. Then he does whatever he does doing so hungry, if he likes. He knows, he can eat whenever he likes, too. Then he takes some garlic cloves and olive oil and whatever else he may like to eat with the rice and eggs – a pickle perhaps. He slowly puts them all together, being happy and content that he enjoys such a wholesome meal, that he may enjoy it now, that he enjoys it already. Then he sits in front of it, and enjoys a curious feeling.
There is hunger. It is a signal. What does it mean? For example, it means that his body is now fully ready to eat – the mouth and its saliva, the stomach and its vital juices, the blood in its readiness to absorb. This seems in order, so correct, that we can associate all sorts of other benevolent feelings with it. He feels desire, but what he desires is right there for him, in front of him – how swell is that? He is in control of the desire – he can enjoy it together with the hunger – how swell is this? He knows that all this is all fine if anything is. He knows that this meal will taste very good indeed – in fact, the longer he enjoys it now the better it will taste later.
Hunger gives motivation. Those who are not poor yet commit suicide do almost never do so hungry – they have no hunger no more. If we are hungry, there is a reason to live, a motivation, a “hunger”.
And then he peels an egg, and then he finally eats, and without fail, although the meal is cold by now, it tastes very good, remarkably good. It is still the hunger that makes it so – what a wonderfully rewarding feeling it can be, hunger.
Why do we suffer suffering? Why not enjoy pain? What is the suffering of suffering that makes it so that we really suffer rather than enjoy the suffering? Logical consistency of the evolutionary description that must hold in the physical perspective implies that the suffering must be “real”, must be “really suffering”, and so must joy be “really joy” and not just some molecule like dopamine, because otherwise these would not make the animal do anything. But in how far does logic implying such provide a “real mechanism” that couples to sadness in its “absoluteness of being experienced”? It does not. In fact, we may feel free to turn away from it.
Zen cooking, like perhaps all in Zen, is an exercise. Hunger is one of the pains that we can explore the easiest, decoupling it from suffering. The pain when sitting straight – we can explore it slowly, decoupling it from suffering, coupling it to joy. Eventually, pains and sorrows may dissolve into contentedness of understanding.
Thus, the suffering in the world and the suffering of those around you may take center stage. That suffering stays real in its absoluteness for those who suffer, even if we decouple. Joy may come in absorbing some of the suffering, dissolving it. A master may be a vessel that emptied itself and into which the followers can lose their sorrows.