Why do we study the philosophy of food, and the life and the wisdom that is sustained and transmitted through this most sacred of causes. Why do we read holy books for that matter?
Clothes protect us from cold and food sustains us, just as oil keeps a fire burning and water supports fish. - Nichiren Daishonin
When planning, preparing and serving a meal, one needs to clear the decks and make a fresh start. As in all areas of life, your mentor will be able to teach you the correct way of executing your faith in yourself. Don't forget the hurt of a ruined dish, or a sunk cake, but don't carry either regret that it happened or fear that it will again. A path is created by walking. (African Proverb) Similarly, one must not be arrogant of past successes and achievements and strive to brings one's self to the present moment, and be in it. Like getting the onion slices uniform.
At every point of your cooking, ask yourself, am I seeking to do the best thing now, is my mind and my soul telling me what is the next right cause to create.
Food can be relatively good, or absolutely good. Much like the provisional teachings and the ultimate teaching, or like snail mail and broadband video conferencing, the choice is yours.
Our mentors never stop cooking. My mom is 80 and still runs a tight ship in the kitchen. The diamond commandment is to never give up practicing. Even the best cook still needs to do a GTD style weekly review on a daily basis, and while cooking, probably on a minutely basis.
The greatest danger is to consider the dish you prepare to be the achievement that you have striven for. Do not make this blunder. These are temporal "icing on the cake" and anything less than manifesting your destiny through your cooking is a weak determination to make.
The focus of our life has to be the object of our devotion, our mission to use our gifts to promote harmony and understanding, yes, with a pomegranate and garlic chives, with a peeler and a ladle, a glaze and a crust. Through our lives and our work, we can inspire other to similarly manifest their true nature to the fullest. The smiles on the faces after a meal, too, are but "icing" and not the cake. Do not make the mistake of missing the cake for the icing.
I can hear the loving cooks fret, but that is what we cook for, the smiles!
The smiles are not effect, they are causes. They will cause further happiness in the lives of the people in the radar of those smiles. Step back, we create the causes, that create the causes that result in happiness.
A common challenge for all kitchen workers is a disaster on hand, whether it be failed equipment, or time and material gone wrong. Remember, your opportunity to create value is commensurate to the challenges you take on. Instead of lamenting, we can remind ourselves that by our commitment to "feed" people, we have automatically received protection from the universe. It is always ideal if the ground is illuminated, but till you get there, the skies may not be clear. Look at the task of a kitchen disaster not as an obligation to work around but as mission to turn "poison into medicine" and still deliver on your promise to celebrate life.
When you have a noble goal in mind, obstacles are bound to arise, not just in disasters, but also in errors in judgment. Remember that when the obstacles are fierce, they become you, and you are going to have to be strong enough to disagree with yourself if you want to win. Preparedness, Wisdom, Courage, and boundless Faith are the key ingredients in dealing with the errors that arise from the devil choosing to take over your cook mind. Study, practice, and keep the faith, pretty simple, actually.
Of course, not waiting for a crisis is essential since it is most often the case that lack of appropriate cause or prudence at the right time causes manifestations to be delayed. If you know fish don't take more than three on each side, don't go checking your mail till it is done. One must be receptive to one's inner "receiver" and keep it tuned and powered, like a zen guitar. The transmitter that tells us instinctively what ingredient to add when and in what quantity is a really powerful one, it runs on the rhythm of life, the rhythm of the universe, but if our receivers are not tuned or not powered, we will, metaphorically speaking, be left holding the icing.
Do not look at your style of cooking or your presentation or your flavor palette the way society or people look at it, look at it as a gift you have been given for a worthy cause, a hearty healthy moment of oneness over a meal.
A last word with one of the best tips I ever got from a fellow kitchen worker.
Flow and Zone are common words. But one's culinary skills need to be like flowing water, and not flaming fire. Take a set of five or six dishes, make them your own, master them, experiment with them, perfect them, over and over and over, your family will hate your for this, but only till they sit to eat. Once you can do it in your sleep, take another set. Repeat. The way the blue of indigo deepens with every repeated dying, let your entire being become one with the creation with an intensity that is beyond that of "doing" something.
If you have read till here, I am certain it is time you got back to the kitchen.
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