Two short essays
Every moment is a moment
Charlotte Selver loves to remind her students that "Every moment is a moment".
There is something liberating about this statement. Every moment is new and
unprecedented. It is filled with possibilities.
Feel this as you are walking. Each step can be invigorated with
a sense of newness. Can you be surprised by the taste of an orange or a
sip of tea? Can you make spaghetti sauce as if it were the first time,
although you've made it a thousand times before?
One of my favorite
Zen stories is about a man who was chased by a ferocious tiger. The man
ran to the edge of a cliff where he grabbed hold of a vine and swung himself
over the side. Still hanging from the vine, he breathed a deep sigh of
relief, thinking he was saved.
But looking up, he saw the tiger waiting for him. Looking down into the
ravine below, he saw another tiger waiting for him. He looked around and saw
two tiny mice begin to chew away at the vine.
Growing on the side of the cliff next to him was a beautiful ripe
strawberry. He could smell its fragrance. It looked like a jewel glinting in
the sunshine. Reaching out, he gently picked it and took a small bite,
savoring its essence. How sweet it tasted!
What freedom this story conveys! Although the man is in a terrible
situation, he is undaunted. Glimmering in front of him is a strawberry, and
he eats it as if he had no other care in the world.
The kitchen is a kaleidoscope of shifting sights, smells, sounds, tastes,
and touch. All these impressions have the power to bring us into the moment,
to make us more alert to what is going on in us and around us.
A frog jumps in
Basho (17th century)
In this poem, Basho celebrates the clarity of a moment just as it is. In the
kitchen there are thousands of such moments.
As cooks, we know the great delight of savoring our food. Sometimes we taste
a small bite of something and chew it carefully, feeling its texture and
exploring its taste.
When we smell something delicious, our mouths water. Our sense of smell
helps us extract the invisible essence of things. Ginger, chili, basil, mint
- we recognize these and a thousand other smells instantly.
We feel the size, shape, temperature, weight, and texture of things. Eyes
closed, we can know the difference between an apple and an orange, a wooden
spoon and a metal one.
Our very substance, every cell, every nerve fiber, is built to respond to
the world around us. We receive the world through our senses, through the
textures and aromas of life.