Among my various jobs in the monastery was that of being one of the four brothers who did the cooking. This meant that I could be cooking supper for anywhere from 6 to 40 people! Since we were not permitted to use pre-made items we had to learn how to cook everything from scratch and preparing supper could take from 4 to 6 hours! For two years I trained under two of the other brother-cooks. They taught me to always search for new dishes to offer, to make sure the meal was presented well and to learn to listen to the brotherhood’s feedback about what I cooked.
Probably my worst mistake was a Saturday night meal of Swedish meatballs. I have no idea where I originally went wrong but as the afternoon went on I kept adding elements in trying to correct whatever mysterious thing was wrong with the dish! Many, many meatballs ended up being scraped off of plates and into the garbage can! In the end the only solution for the fiasco was to empty the pot over the edge of the cliff with the hope that maybe at least some animals would eat them!
At one point our Abbot developed congestive heart failure and the four of us cooks had to totally eliminate salt from the cooking. This change stymied us and in the beginning we were unsure how to bring out flavors without salt. By experimenting with various vinegars, citrus, and intensely flavored herbs we grew in our ability to give taste to a dish without the crutch of salt. To this day I neither use salt in my cooking nor add it to my plate.
Change can occasionally happen all at once like an earthquake or an Abbot’s directive of “no more salt”! For most of us change is incremental and may come about so slowly as to be invisible to ourselves! Writing a journal can be very helpful in giving perspective when we try to get a glimpse of who we are. By reading what we wrote some time ago we come into contact with another “us” who might seem distinctly different! Suddenly we awaken to the change that has occurred within us… in our attitude about people, things and even food!
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts my former dislike for Brussels sprouts and for sour cream “transmogrified” (to quote Calvin and Hobbs) into an attraction that would have mystified the younger me! Change does not have to be monumental! In fact, the smaller the degree of the change the more possible it is for us to incorporate that change! Change is about adaptation and evolution and whether it has to do with our cooking, our taste in food, or the inner orientation of our heart… it is possible!