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)


  1. wow, you're brave! But I can't think of anything more wonderful than taking in the energy - literally - from a marigold. Wow.

    I always eat a few cherry blossoms in early spring. They're delicious.

  2. I like the idea that you were working within a known framework, that you were expected to eat everything you were served -- even edible flowers! I'm treating my CSA crate each week in somewhat the same way -- forcing myself to plan meals that use everything I'm given, even it is something like a beet which I had never before bought or cooked. A sure way to widen our eating horizons!

  3. The whole meal sounds wonderful Steve! My best friend here in Nyack always makes these salad meals for us, and she puts in flowers from her garden. she knows what she's doing--I wouldn't knowo which flowers to use.

    When are you coming to Nyack (to walk to Piermont and back) with me? Maybe when Kim is here we can all walk it.

  4. That sounds like a very intentional way to eat, and very soothing, too.

  5. nasturtiums and violets are quite yummy also.....

    we could all use more ceremony with our meals.....

  6. Interesting. I would have eaten the flower, I think, but there are tons of things I would have struggle with, should they land in my bowl.

  7. I ate specially prepared bees once. crunchy

  8. :o/ not attracted to the idea of crunchy bees.

    marigolds are beautiful and delicious though, i sometimes put the petals in salads.

    they are also very good for skin - my ears have lots of experience lately of calendula (marigold) cream...

  9. Marigolds are delicious! Truly!