Zen and Cooking

Introduction

ZEN AND …« has always got a bitter taste to it, something additional, of course that always makes me wrinkle my Zen nose a little. Zen is a spirit that is prepared. Prepared and capable to separate itself from the well-known landscapes of mental activity and dedicate itself completely to this very moment in a spontaneous and creative way. Even beyond our conditioning this involves concepts like »free, sensible, joyful, appropriate and compassionate«.

I see very similar qualities in a vegetal …. In today’s environment it is sensible, compassionate, appropriate joyful and spontaneously right. These facts are already well-known, the vegan way of life is from an ecological point of view an urgent requirement, it lifts a weight of the shoulder of our ethical conscience and our health is outright boosted. Apart from that it is also a diverse sensual pleasure to discover this kind of food…

Plus: Zen developed over a long period within Buddhism, a tradition that has chosen the »middle way« for itself and criticises any form of fanaticism an one-sided self-opinionatedness.

May all beings be happy.

Vanja Palmers

’Schupfnudeln’ (German finger-shaped potato dumplings)

Seed Bread

with Muhammara and Yoğurtlu Patlican Salatasi

& Capsicum-pomegrenate-spread & eggplant dip

Vegan Dim Sum

(Dim Sum with silken tofu and red pepper)

Go Vegan

Peaceful cooking, peaceful eating, peaceful living

Cooking is the pure joy of life! Cooking connects and unites people. We can overcome borders effortlessly with food and can discover new worlds because we’ve all got something in common: we love eating and we love eating well.

Everyone of us knows about livestock farming and killing of animals. Only, we usually manage to repress these thoughts quite well. At some point however, it starts working in everyone who is on the way; at first you start »doing your groceries more consciously«, you start looking at the origin of the products and how they were produced and out of a sudden we adopt a vegetarian diet and the way to a vegan diet is not far away if we listen to our feelings and our conscience. Cooking and eating without harming another living organism – that is what the vegan stile of life is about. Why should we eat and cook vegan food? It’s quite simple: it is one of the most peaceful ways to eat. Don’t you think that’s convincing? Vegan cooking should be the commandment of the hour for all of us. A sustainable use of our resources and the end of animals suffering are the driving forces behind the vegan stile of life. We all know about the horrendous circumstances animals are being kept in and tuned into our »food« even if we don’t like to admit to it. To change those, we as consumers have to act, that is the only way we can influence the situation.

Many people are daunted by the thought of vegan nutrition or a vegan stile of life because they often wonder: »What will there be left for me to eat?«, or »This is so complicated!« I had exactly the same thought whne I decided to live vegan – even if I as a cook should have known better. I didn’t however, because just like many others I tried replacing meat and my beloved cheese at first. Still, it’s not possible to replace the taste of meat, cheese let alone eggs. There simply is no such thing as a replacement for traditional Alpenkäse (Alp cheese) or Wiener Snitzel.
However, that is not necessary!

 

Once I realised that the vegan diet turned from being complicated and boring. There is so much to discover in vegan cooking that I don’t even miss my beloved cheese. On the contrary: day by day the diversity of vegan cooking excites me and my senses anew. As soon as you are ready to let go of your old patterns of thinking, as soon as you stop holding on to your old habits, there will be culinary delicacies opening up to you.

 

Cooking and enjoying vegan food also embodies the pure joy of life. There is so much to discover and to taste once you’re ready to engage yourself in this way of cooking. As soon as you’ve gained a little bit more experience in this way of cooking you will be immensely inspired and learn to love the diversity of vegan cooking. Take your time to cook.

Freshly cooked food might take up more of your time than convenience products but it’s worth it because it tastes just the way you want it to taste! Cooking is also a great way to relieve stress. Don’t see it as compulsion because eating is living. Take your time to cook, take your time to live, take your time for a healthier way of life!

 

Cooking and eating as Zen practice? Yes, cooking and eating are great ways of practicing mindfulness because only those who are present here and now, who are fully present while cooking, will realise that there is no such thing as a recipe neither for cooking nor for living. Although there are many recipes that are supposed to help you to master living and cooking – these kinds of recipes are only partially useful. More explicitly: if you don’t work with your heart seeing, smelling, feeling and sensing are not developed and you will always have the feeling that your dish doesn’t taste right.

 

The great thing about cooking is that you can learn to let go of your own aspiration to practise to become perfect. Only if you can let go, you truly start to improve your skills, recognise all the conections and let go. This is the moment when cooking turns into joy and we can fulfil our aspirations. This is the practice that we dedicate ourselves to when we’re in the kitchen. Roland Rauter

»Good cooking is the basis of all luck.«

Auguste Escoffier

My Zen-friend Roland Rauter

Roland Rauter, Veganer Spitzenkoch
Roland Rauter in the kitchen

He is a trained chef and has been a vegan by conviction for many years. After his apprenticeship he spent his years of travel in different kitchens at home and abroad, where he also worked in high-end restaurants. He spent the last ten years training young people with hearing impairment and and need for special support in the kitchen as chef du cuisine.

With his books he wants to show that a vegan diet can be an enjoyable alternative to consuming animal products. Roland has also been a Zen student of Kurt KyuSei Österle for many years.

The kitchen team

The cook in the monastery

THE TENZO AND THE ZEN-BUDDHIST ETHIC OF EATING

IN BIG JAPANESE ZEN MONASTERIES, apart from the abbot who hast he overall responsibility for the monastery, there are traditionally 13 positions, covered by people who support the abbot in administrative and spiritual matters. Seven administrative positions are part of the eastern rank (Japanese: tōhan) and six spiritual positions part of the western rank (seihan). One of the most important positions in the eastern rank is the chef (tenzo, verbatim „responsible for“ [ten] »sitting« [zo]). Eating is one of the most important practises in Zen and the Tenzo is therefore much more than »just« a cook or chef de cuisine. The selection and preparation of ingredients indeed reflects the western dimensions of Zen Buddhist ethics. That is why they Tenzo is mainly responsible for Buddhist practice and the wellbeing of the practitioners he cooks for.

In Buddhist ethics the decrease of suffering is in the focus of all human activity. Especially in connection with food it becomes clear that every life is built on the suffering of another. When we eat another life hast o die for us or is exploited or used in another way.

Vegetarianism and veganism are diets that can’t prevent the suffering of other feeling organisms (such as plants and animals) but in comparison to a meat-based diet it can at least decrease the suffering. Additionally, the intention of killing such as it is needed when butchering animals is seen as extremely bad for the development of the human mind towards balance and happiness.

A good Tenzo always focuses on how he can least harm his fellow companions, fellow animals and the environment when choosing food. His abilities in mind he will always try to cook according to the four honourable truths of Buddhism; that means regarding food to reflect upon whether the preparation of the dishes and the ingredients he uses in them inflict harm upon any living being, what kind of harm it is, whether it can be avoided or reduced and what is needed practically to reduce the harm that is done. Form such an ethical point of view there are other questions that are important apart from abstaining from meat, for example sustainability of products, the influence of cultivation methods on the ecosystem, questions concerning economic fairness and globalisation, as well as many others.

However Buddhism is not all about recognizing and decreasing suffering but, to say it positively, to realise the human potential to luck, health, balance and wellbeing. The distinction between body and sould that is qzuite usual in the western world has never existed in Buddhist thinking. »You are what you eat« is also a foundation of Buddhism. Many people might know from experience that her wellbeing is influenced a great deal through specific food or drinks. However, to learn from such experiences and take necessary steps against harmful eating habits often fails due to internalised habits. In the way a Tenzo prepares dishes he directly influences directly his own health as meditator, as the health of his fellow practitioners.

Cooking and eating are meditation alike. The way in which we cook and eat influences us and our environment with an intensity that we might completely ignore due to a careless diet. The position of the Tenzo in Zen-Buddhism clarifies that cooking and eating can be turned into a mindful art. In the end, all of us are Tenzos because in one way or another we prepare or consume food and with each meal we have the possibility to support those things that are beneficial to us and neglect those that are not. Gerald Virtbauer

»Wash the rice thoroughly, put it in the pot, light the fire and cook it.«

Dogen Zenji

Eating Gatha

This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky and much hard work. Living beings had to suffer and to die for us.

May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.

May we we take only food that nourish us and prevent illness. We accpt this food so that we may realise the path of understanding and love.

»We do everything that we do for ourselves also for others,
and everything that we do for others we do for ourselves as well.«

Thich Nhat Hanh

Artichock basis (with pea cream)

vegan burgers

Filled kohlrabi

(on truffle potato mash)

Stir-fry