"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: john cage

brown rice . . .

bento box 2

Earlier this week, I retrieved my German-made pressure cooker from the recesses of my pantry.

Read (in Buddhist cookbook, “Wake Up and Cook!”) about the composer John Cage’s ritual of gathering fresh spring water out in the wilds of New York State to use when cooking his brown rice in a pressure cooker with a spoonful of soy.

That also got me thinking about making rice balls with nori and other goodies in bento boxes or one bowl meals.

These photos were found at Thanks!

These photos were found at Thanks!

zen cuisine . . .

photos from NYTimes article featuring Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan and her cooking

photos from NYTimes article featuring Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan and her cooking

Today is Day Three of my water fast (the 2nd day was the hardest) and I am feeling buoyed up, centered and excited about following Zen cuisine when my 4-day water fast is completed on Monday. I already have a nice library of cookery writing along these lines: “Wake Up and Cook” where John Cage writes about going out to gather spring water from the wilds of New York State to make his staple of pressure-cooked brown rice with a spoonful of soy sauce. “Food for Solitude” is another old favorite of mine with essays written by loners and ascetics who eat simply and well enough, and who know why they like living that way.

In my library of macrobiotic cooking (I took a workshop out at the Kushi Institute in western Massachusetts more than a decade ago when I was recuperating from a viral illness) I rediscovered the practice of cooking brown rice in a pressure cooker using a heat diffuser pad at the end of the process. It took me less than five minutes to relocate my German-made pressure cooker in the caverns of my pantry and the heat diffuser, still hanging by its leather thong on the pantry wall. It is now scrubbed and ready to go when I begin cooking again later this week.

The feature article in the NYTimes Magazine today about Jeong Kwan, the Zen Buddhist nun from South Korea who cooks temple food for herself and two other nuns, occasional monks and visitors inspired me a few days ago. Perhaps this latest “discovery” of Jeong Kwan might someday lead to a cookery book (certainly there will be a big push to do one since the subject herself, the topography and her slow methods of producing condiments from scratch lend themselves to our cookery times.) But it won’t happen tomorrow or the next day so in the meantime, there are enough ideas in the aforementioned books to satisfy my cooking learning curve for awhile.

Here’s a link to a cookbook in my library called “The Heart of Zen Cuisine.”

kindred spirits. . .

As a self-described loner, the number of friends I have can be counted on one hand. Most of them are loners too, a few even more reclusive than I am. They are all artists of one kind or another. Their eye, hand and spirit are usually mucking around in what they are making, the instruments they are playing or what they are reading and writing. It takes a lot to go it alone. They share an insistent curiosity that seeks out what sparks their interest, incapable of just letting it lie there.

G. said about me once, “the difference between you and other people is that you pull the trigger.” I guess he’s right. My father was like that too (“My father, myself“.) When he decided to make all of our living room furniture from scratch, he taught himself how to do it. One of our neighbors wrote to me when he died that she still remembers that about him and the simple maple furniture he made for our house. There was a wooden chair in the shape of a Mies van der Rohe chaise lounge that I wish one of us had saved.

During his African violet phase, our entire basement was suddenly filled with aisles of artificial growing lights and metal carts with layers of trays lined with potted flowers. It seemed like an odd choice of plant for him. Later, I remember that he also liked gloxinias and christmas cactus plants. When each “phase” was over, it clicked shut, just like that.

I wonder where these obsessive urges come from. I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. They feel like a binge to me. Whenever I come upon something that resonates with me, I feel it right away. It’s not just what appears on the surface but something else I feel a kinship with, an energy submerged within.

That’s the experience I had on Saturday night when G. and I watched a DVD about Margaret Leng Tan. Born in Singapore, she is a pianist living in Brooklyn who built a following through her performances playing John Cage’s compositions on pianos and on toy pianos. Her dedication to forging her own path and her sense of presence bowled me over. The energy of her performances, her large piano hands, her crisp haircut and the four dogs that kept her company stayed with me long after the documentary wound to a close.

The next day, I downloaded “The Art of the Toy Piano” on I-Tunes. I was glad to find the gorgeous blues-y Satie piece by Toby Twining played concurrently on piano and toy piano. I scrolled through twenty-four pages of toy pianos listed on eBay but didn’t see anything that compared favorably with her collection of eighteen toy pianos. I sat down at my piano and sightread the Beethoven sonata that Margaret adapted for Charles Schultz’s Peanuts character, Schroeder, that was featured in the film. I read about John Cage again. I took out “Wake Up and Cook”, a Buddhist cookbook which describes Cage’s preference for making brown rice the macrobiotic way with spring water that he drove miles to fetch in empty water jugs he brought from home.

I even wrote an e-letter to Margaret because I felt her life was so inspiring and poignant at the same time. Miraculously, she wrote back! She says she now has six dogs!

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