Thursday, August 28, 2008
During my recent retreat, we ate all our meals oriyoki-style, which means the food was served to us ceremonially in the Zendo and we ate silently from three small bowls. It’s a beautiful, economical way to eat -- we lay out our bowls and utensils, the food is served, we eat, and then we use a spatula and hot water or tea to clean the bowls and pack them up again.
One of the rules of oriyoki is that you eat all your food. You don’t get much, so it’s not difficult. Even if you have a violent personal dislike for something, if it lands in your bowl, you eat it. (I’m not sure what would happen in the case of allergy -- the menu is usually posted, so I suppose you’d want to stay on top of what was being served and intercede before the server put it into your bowl.)
During an oriyoki ceremony one morning, the server was dishing out porridge, and she served me part of the garnish -- an orange flower. I sat looking at this beautiful little blossom in my bowl (marigold? zinnia?) and wondering what I was supposed to do with it.
I surreptitiously caught the eye of the head server, held it up and mouthed the word “edible?” He just shrugged, which wasn’t really helpful.
I watched another guy near me who also got a flower. He set his aside, on the floor. But I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping track of a flower somewhere near my cushion for the rest of the afternoon.
I know there are edible flowers, so finally I just decided that it wouldn’t have been served to me if I couldn’t eat it. So I did. And it was good -- peppery and crisp!
I asked the head cook about it later, and it turns out that it was a marigold and meant to be eaten. The episode was definitely a teaching -- about letting go of ideas, trusting and going with the flow!
(Photo: Flowers (but not marigolds) in the East Village, Aug. 2008)