Zen: The Art of Modern Eastern Cooking
Although I have devoted many years to the study of Taoism, I originally found it through Zen. And I found Zen through my mother’s friendship with Reverend Kobori of the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto. Thus, for me, cooking pulls together feelings of home, family, friendship, culture, nourishment, and simplicity.
Cooking goes beyond the food. It has to do with growing the food or shopping for it, preparing it, considering one’s guests or family, and finally, sensing one’s place in the universe as one sits down to eat. Cooking is part of everyday life, and everyday life is spiritual. The scriptures are fine. The contemplation of gods is fine. But the tangible acts of cooking and eating can bring reverence directly into our lives.
Taoism and Zen are kindred. The two spiritual disciplines have influenced one another for centuries. Zen: The Art of Modern Eastern Cooking was an opportunity to unite many concerns for good health and spirituality.
Life need not be frantic. We can find serene balance in our lives though diet. We can return to the healthy practices of eating only fresh, seasonal foods, considering color, and allowing for the compatibility of flavors. We can awaken our senses and invigorate our bodies and our spirits. From classic Zen dishes like Five-Color Stir-Fry to creative recipes like Mango Ginger Gazpacho, all of the recipes are accompanied by anecdotes and quotations from Zen masters. Also included is a section on tea and the ceremonial Zen approach to preparing and drinking it.
“Zen: The Art of Modern Eastern Cooking,” by Deng Ming-Dao is a restful book. That may seem a contradiction in that the presumed aim of a cookbook is to activate the reader, motivating him or her to go into the kitchen and prepare food. But the approach Deng has taken is so low-key, the book’s design and photographs so clear and uncluttered, that your journey into the kitchen with this book is likely to be as soothing as slipping into a warm bath.
“Zen is simply everyday life lived with awareness” is the book’s first sentence. Deng wants Zen cooking to be associated with common sense, health and pleasure. The nearly 100 recipes are appealing. Those we tested were well within the reach of most home cooks. They include many vegetable recipes, but the book is not vegetarian. There are recipes for lamb, chicken, and contemporary concepts including a shiitake mushroom risotto and an Asian jambalaya.
– Chicago Tribune