Zen and the Art of Seaweed Salad

Chris has been in Germany for four weeks, and I really thought I was going to get more work done. Alas, with a full time work schedule and a giant chunk of my day devoured by my commute, I get home with two hours to myself before bedtime. My weekends are booked with laundry, grocery shopping and housekeeping duties. I miss having a partner to help out around the house.

I’ve begun to realize that I spend most of my time running around, worrying about what needs to get done. I think that can be said for most Americans. The very American concept of “efficiency” demands more of people for less in return. I don’t consider myself a “spiritual” person, but throughout my life I have found comfort in Buddhist philosophy and thought. I find particularly poignant the Buddhist emphasis on “mindfulness,” or the importance of awareness in the present moment. How often do we stop and really think about our existence, or our place in the world?

My most meditative moments tend to happen when I’m cooking. There’s something to be said for that. Food is more than nourishment, it is an intrinsic part of being. Which is why I prefer foods that are close to their origins, prepared simply and true to their being. Obviously that doesn’t mean that I limit myself to raw vegetables, or eliminate all flavor enhancing seasonings, but I aim for simplicity. And I’m finding that when I pay attention to the nature of the food I’m preparing, my meals are healthier. When I eat vegetables with the intention of tasting the vegetables and not dousing them in butter or cheese or salt, the outcome is a healthful, meaningful meal.

I personally think it would serve our best interest to meditate over our meals and really think about what we put in our bodies. We live in a culture where everything needs to be done faster, where a meal comes from a box or a microwave, where cheaper is considered better. What would happen if we all took five or ten minutes to sit in front of our dinner and ask, “How will this meal nurture me?” People work to own a bigger home, a bigger car, a lifestyle of more. What would happen if we said, “I want less?”

Mindful Seaweed Salad
1-2 cups dried Arame seaweed
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
2 scallions, sliced
1 tsp ginger (powdered or fresh)
1/2 tsp ume plume vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
Sesame seeds to taste

Arame has a wonderfully mild flavor, it tastes of the sea without being strongly flavored like nori. It also has a firm texture, almost
like al dente pasta. Like all sea vegetables, arame is naturally high in iodine, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A. It is a truly nurturing food.
To make this salad, boil the arame for 10mins. Drain and set aside to cool, or plunge into an ice bath.
Toss the arame with the remaining ingredients. Ume plum vinegar is not a true vinegar, its the brine from umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum). Umeboshi are a common
Japanese snack food, they are extremely high in sodium but are a good source of probiotics.

I recommend eating this with a hot cup of green tea while reading the Lotus Sutra.

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