Page 1


The Jewel in the Cabbage cooking with metaphors

vimalabandhu 2nd edition 2013 available from www.lulu.com


Contents Introduction

3

I The Awakening of Faith

5

Through Wind and Fire

10

II Back to Basics and Beyond

15

Your Own Way

20

In Search of Quality

26

The Resurrection of Spinach and Co.

30

The Buddha in the Aubergine

34

The Culinary Cult

41

Cooking Unbounded

45

III A Pinch of Logic and Strategy

49

Blueprints from Starter to Sweet

58

Ingredients For Change

76

Lasagne beyond the Pigeon Hole

79

The Thousand Faces Of Cabbage

83

IV Nurturing Nature

86

An Invitation to support the Vegan cause

91

Acknowledgements

92


Introduction The most important change in cooking happens when one becomes a master of the art, when we can see through the culinary labyrinth and experience cooking as a joy instead of a chore. We can learn not only to cook a range of delicious food, but also learn to prepare food with whatever ingredients are available and work confidently in any situation. Lack of courage or inspiration undermines our will to explore the hidden richness of our daily cooking. The joy of creating, of sharing and of savouring food, however small to begin with, is the incentive, the metaphorical carrot that will help us embark on the path of mastery. This is an unconventional book on cooking. It is not a recipe book although there are advice on how to create your own recipes. Rather, it is a guide to discover the Jewel, the most precious thing in the ingredients, in the act of cooking and in our life. The book relates ideas and ideals to our cooking, using examples and metaphors, to make it tangibly alive. It invites us to cook with our whole being, with our sense of wonder and adventure. Metaphors can help us to bring passion to the kitchen from any of our favourite fields of activities. How this book is organised The book is divided in 4 parts, Part I is a short cooking biography, from my initiation into the art at an early age in Indonesia up to working as the chef at a vegetarian cafĂŠ in Manchester UK. The Jewel in the Cabbage 3


Part II and Part III are the bulk of the book, addressing the subjective and the objective aspects of cooking. In Part II we look at what cooking is all about and glimpse its “grammar�. We also need a vision to place cooking in the scheme of our life. Part III consists of practical tools, cooking information and advice for changes. It shows the mechanics of cooking such as frying, boiling and other ways of preparing food. It demonstrates how to work with quantities and time management. It describes how to make various dishes and how to adapt them. It also encourages us to use unfamiliar ingredients to expand our cooking scope and to keep our cooking fresh. Part IV The book ends by viewing our cooking in the world context, with its health, environmental and ethical issues. It is an invitation to cook a brighter future. All the food suggested in this book is vegan.

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CHAPTER 1

The Awakening of Faith My mother woke me up and asked me to accompany her to the market later in the morning. We lived in Indonesia, in a small city called Sukabumi (local spelling of a Sanskrit word which means land of happiness). So I was woken up in the Garden of Eden. Maybe I was four years old, or it was Sunday, otherwise I would have been at school. My mother was a very good cook. I liked to go with her to explore the big world. Usually she took a short cut, walking along the railway tracks, passing through the station. It was forbidden but nobody took any notice of it. The fascination of the hissing and steaming locomotives was part of the excitement of the trip. I knew that if I was with her I could request her to prepare a dish I fancied and learn to track down the necessary ingredients. The market was a labyrinth; we moved along through the gaps between the stalls. It was shadowy. Pieces of cloth, palm leaf thatch or tarpaulin suspended above the stalls protected people and the merchandise from the fierce sunlight. The market always changed its configuration because smaller stalls didn’t have a fixed position, but fortunately we could use some permanent stalls as land marks. The other part of the market was spread along the streets, on the pavement in the front of the shops. I liked meat but I didn’t like to be in the section where they sold it, the smell of blood, grease, entrails and decay pervaded the place. The Jewel in the Cabbage 5


Of course there was no refrigeration and there were many flies. The fish market was a little better, yes it smelt too but fish smells more or less the same raw or cooked and there, I could watch fresh water fish swimming in the tanks or in waterproofed bamboo baskets. We usually didn’t buy chicken at the market, they were too unwieldy to carry, particularly alive. In the absence of any cooling system, preserving their life was a means of keeping their meat fresh. Anyway there were enough sellers coming round to the houses with chicken. The rest of the market consisted of the fruit and vegetable stalls. Fruit, and to a lesser extent vegetables, gave me both surprises and disappointments; bananas, papayas and oranges for example were always available throughout the year, but mangoes, rambutan and many other exotic varieties were seasonal and the yearly cycle was too long to follow for a child of four. My father ran a dairy farm across from where we lived, just outside the city centre. We had milk cows in the stalls, and chickens and ducks in the yard. There was a rice mill and a garden with fruit trees which grew pretty much at random; bananas, orange, avocado, mango and coconut as well as shrubs with aromatic or edible leaves. So it was a happy land of milk and honey. Luckily enough the food didn't come automatically to the table, otherwise how could I have the excitement of climbing the orange and mango trees or of entering the chicken coop with many chickens half my size, to collect their eggs? The kitchen was where everything happened and I watched my mother cook. When we celebrated birthdays or festive days, cake The Jewel in the Cabbage 6


making was the most important event for me. She asked us children to grease the cake tin, sift flour and separate yolks from the egg whites. Beating and mixing yolks with sugar and butter seemed never-ending; but to beat egg whites until they became firm with a hand held whisk was a real feat. Soon after the cake mixture went into the oven, the kitchen would be pervaded with sweet, rich fragrance; the sign that the magical process was under way. Magical because in contrast to other food preparation, all the ingredients were transformed beyond recognition into one delicious substance. So I was woken to my birthright to eat, doesn’t everybody who is born have this right? But in my case, it was not just food but good food, not only to eat but also to make, to find and if necessary to grow food. Naturally I played and went to school and did other things kids used to do, but none was closer to my heart than the magic and mystery of cooking; its seed was planted there . Twenty years later, in Holland at the dinner table in my brother's house where I lived, his wife asked me what I thought of the foodmy brother had cooked. I hesitated, my Dutch was not up to much, especially not for socialising, it was barely enough to cope with the basic issues of technology which didn't demand nuances. I had just arrived in Holland to study physics. I fell back on Indonesian custom of toning down the adjectives, as I understood it, in contrast to Western exaggeration, I said it was ok, it was edible. What I meant to say was that it was good and I enjoyed it. She was furious, she was proud of his cooking. To add to her grievance, I said in my ignorance that it wasn't a big deal, that anybody could cook. “In that case” she retorted, ”you have to cook next Sunday as we have invited guests for dinner”. I agreed and the dinner went well, The Jewel in the Cabbage 7


to everybody's satisfaction. I didn't tell anybody that I had never cooked before except for heating up rice and frying eggs. Is there a sudden path to becoming a cook? I did consult a cookery book at that time, but I realised later that one never learned cooking from a book. Most, if not all, cookery books are only useful for somebody who already knows how to do it, they just add more variety on the same theme. What is learning? How can one become a cook? Aristotle is reputed to have said that learning and doing take place at the same time. To believe that one can learn before doing is the arrogance of the intellect and believing that one learns after doing the very thing one wants to learn contradicts logic. Knowing about swimming in theory doesn’t make one a swimmer, but as soon as he jumps in the water, if he is lucky, he is a swimmer and he can improve his skill by attending to the interaction of his body and the water. It is a sudden and gradual process. One becomes a cook in the act of cooking. One needs courage or faith to put the 'what ifs', the hypothetical situations, aside. Books or other advice promise to answer the 'what ifs'; but they rarely can rescue us. Firstly because their 'what ifs' are usually different to ours, and secondly and most importantly, learning is not to answer the 'what ifs' but how to deal with the 'what is really happening'. No speculation but a direct and immediate response then and there. My sister-in-law gave me the challenge and my mother gave me the faith. When these two met, the Master arrived. After this incident, I realised that I could actually cook, I was already a cook somehow. From then on I volunteered happily to cook for my student friends. The Jewel in the Cabbage 8


The more I cooked the better I became; the better I became the more eager people were to ask me. It was an exhilarating time.

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CHAPTER 2

Through Wind and Fire A physicist by default At the end of my school years I couldn't decide what I wanted to study; a careers advisor couldn't help me much either. I knew only that I wanted to be an engineer like most of my brothers. In the end I chose applied physics just to postpone making a definite commitment, thinking that physics was the source of all engineering. As a kid I liked playing with Meccano, or building simple structures or toys such as a turbine driven by the stream running behind our house. My father kept broken tools, bits and pieces of machinery and leftover building materials all mixed up together in a barn, our hunting ground when I and my friends needed something to complete our projects. Maybe I was misled by the word "physics": "ilmu alam" in Indonesian, which literally means the science of nature. I soon realised that there wasn’t much nature as I knew it in physics. The study became less and less interesting and, of course, more and more difficult. I completed my degree, not because I enjoyed it but just because I didn't want to fail. At the end of the five year course I was granted the equivalent of a MSc, but the physics in me didn't come to life, it lacked the spirit, the love which could have unified and animated the many pieces of information. Could one become a master of a lifeless science? Didn't Aristotle say that one becomes a physicist by doing physics, i.e. by searching The Jewel in the Cabbage 10


and solving the actual problem and not by collecting the answers of 'what if's'? What I did as a kid was more like doing physics ( looking for wire or pieces of metal in the barn) whereas what I did at university was more like my father, gathering junk in the barn in case it would be useful for something, sometime somehow. The wind of cooking Zen master Baoche of Mount Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?”. “Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Baoche replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere”. “What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again, The master just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply. Dogen, Genjo Koan Cycling against the wind in the Low Countries I was exhausted, the engineering track was dusty and arduous. At the end I just laid down on the couch to dream of other tracks and winds. The Master’s voice became clearer telling me to go to France to follow the fragrant wind. France, where people obeyed culinary laws, where cafes and restaurants were the places of worship. When I arrived in Chambery in Haute Savoy for a cookery course, I could just understand the class room lessons and the kitchen instructions. The cooking in spite of its French guise had its own “logic”. However the students puzzled me, their French argot was beyond my grasp. We learned the properties of the ingredients, we learned basic food processing techniques and we learned to worship food and the kitchen luminaries too. The Jewel in the Cabbage 11


The school applied the principle of becoming a cook by doing the cooking. They ran a restaurant with the students as the employees right from the beginning. While one group of students was in class, the other ran the restaurant. This arrangement alternated weekly and there were no other workers to fall back on. With the new Master voice in charge I could start using old skills: home trained mindfulness, school discipline or even knowledge of heat transfer and construction theory. All these helped prevent errors and accidents, helped construct pastry casing, plan and execute menus on time. Lack of money, blew me back to Holland where I started work as a freelance caterer, providing food for private parties. I enjoyed the cooking but finding the contracts was hard. So I applied for a job as a part time cook instead. It was in a refuge for battered women and their children. Haute cuisine for the oppressed? Unfortunately not, the food budget was low and they wanted normal food, nothing strange, they already had enough crisis to cope with. A friend opened a small luxurious conference centre with hotel facilities where they ran seminars and ongoing courses. She posed a challenge by asking me to prepare food for the ongoing groups without repetition over two years . They came for a week every two months, so I worked through more than a hundred different menus. She also organised Sunday afternoon concerts, which were followed by a dinner. The dinner had to be adjusted to the culinary tradition either of the main composer or the soloist of the event. The Master fanned himself vigorously.

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Through the rings of fire The laboratory of physics was too cold. In the warmer kitchen I came to life. Having been nourished with the gentle and rich spices of Indonesian cooking and the succulent and sparkling Chinese tradition, with the newly acquired French sensibility I started roaming in the world’s kitchen happy go- luckily. Life was light and colourful for a while. Gradually, however, damp, smoke and tiny oil drops began to settle on the walls, the ceiling and in my heart. Existential crisis set in. Washing the grime with a little wine or cognac didn’t help. I needed a thorough cleaning, through another fire, a sulphuric bath. I went to warm Spain. While immersing myself in a psychosynthetic workshop, I saw a vision, a video recording of a talk by Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order. It was “The Taste of Freedom”, an unlikely combination of seeing a talk on taste. However I managed to taste the lack of it, that I wasn’t free. The kitchen fire didn’t cook me enough. True, I could and did choose a new country and career but I missed a deeper purpose of my life, I was still easily pulled by greed, pushed by frustration and confused in between. Wandering and wondering I knocked at the doors of the retreat centres of the Triratna Buddhist Community to find the fire of the Dharma, the Truth, the fire that can soften and evaporates the grime that blocked my pure vision. For more than ten years I worked with kitchen fire and Dharma fire, mainly in England but also in Spain, on the mountain in a secluded valley. “ Master Daie said “ Zen practised in a state of activity is superior a million fold to that practised in quietude”...... like a lotus flower The Jewel in the Cabbage 13


which blooms in the midst of fire increases its beauty and glowing lustre the more it faces the blazing flame................” Hakuin – Orategame I didn’t practice in quietude. Being the cook I was not on retreat most of the time and although meditation was not my main practice, I took the challenge. I assumed that Hakuin’s saying was also applicable to practising ethics, friendliness and mindfulness, practices that can help us to be less egoistic and to live more genuinely. I moved to Manchester. With friends from the Manchester Buddhist Centre we started the Earth Café, a vegetarian café in the city centre, a fire where these magical lotus flowers, our full potentiality might bloom.

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CHAPTER 3

Back to Basics and Beyond The spirit of cooking Almost everybody can cook somehow, many can cook their favourite food very well, but most of us will find cooking unfamiliar dishes difficult. Can we cook confidently using unknown ingredients or when we have to cook for a large number of people? If we feel at a loss without a recipe, we will realise that we are like a cooking machine, that can run only with a program. Unfortunately most cookery books do program us by telling us what to do instead of teaching us how to make decisions and choices . To be able to cook confidently, we need to know what cooking is in its essence. So let us look at this spirit of cooking, any cooking, from roasting vegetables on a camp fire to creating a complicated dish in a laboratory like kitchen. It can be represented in the following definition. Skilful cooking is preparing desirable food by making the best use of the available resources. Although it is simple, this definition places our cooking in a context and gives us direction. Firstly it demands us to clarify our goal, we have to consider the range of possible products we want to make, and secondly it demands us to inspect our means, i.e. we have to take stock of the equipment and ingredients that are at our The Jewel in the Cabbage 15


disposal. It also urges us to acquire some skill to carry out the task in the best way. From the tension between what is desirable and what is available, we can find a solution. This is the way to discover a new dish or a new approach, the way to keep our cooking alive and growing. Here is an example of skilful cooking in action ; Imagine that we stay in a friend’s bungalow during a holiday. We are preparing a dinner and we have the ingredients our friend left us to use. However there is no potato, rice or any other carbohydrate containing ingredient except for a packet of flour. The oven is broken. The shops are closed, but luckily we have enough time to spend. So, what could we do? Although baking bread or pie is excluded, we could still use flour to make dough pieces and cook them by steaming, boiling, frying or even grilling on a metal plate. How about making noodle, pasta or chapatti? So, we need to chose the option that will go best with the rest of the meal we are considering to make. Of course we have to find out whether the necessary pieces of equipment are there. Could we, for example, improvise a rolling pin by using any cylindrical bottle, to roll out dough? The open secret It is almost unbelievable that to enjoy anything we need a skill. Can we enjoy writing a story, playing the flute or even watching a cricket match if we don’t understand what we are doing? To be skilful in cooking, first of all we need to have interest and the confident in learning it. However the essential elements for skilful cooking are awareness, the ability to notice things or processes, and care, the effort to make them go well. Without awareness and The Jewel in the Cabbage 16


care no matter how many other ingredients or cooking gadgets we use, we will never accomplish our work well. From our definition of skilful cooking we can see that awareness is needed in every aspects of cooking. We need it to be able to chose; * the most desirable food at that particular moment. ** the available and potential resources. *** the best way of using the resources. Heightened awareness cuts through our limited habitual responses and opens up new exciting possibilities. Cooking metaphors We know more than what we are conscious of knowing. When we walk to the bus stop, for example, we forget the movements of our feet and how to keep our balance. We speak our mother tongue even if we are unaware of learning its grammar. Usually we don’t clutter our mind with innumerable learning steps, but if we forget all of them completely, it will be a great loss. Some aspects of learning are transferable and metaphors are the vehicles to carry out this task. The word metaphor is derived from a Greek word that means to transfer. So, why don’t we learn cooking from other experiences? To be able to do so we need to be specific. Recognising that swimming is like cooking, for example, is not enough, we need to know which aspects and in which way they are similar. We need also to remember how we mastered those aspects of swimming and explore their relevance to our cooking. Before we learned swimming, maybe we were afraid of being in water, afraid of losing our solid foothold. But seeing others, even The Jewel in the Cabbage 17


children younger than ourselves playing and diving into the water merrily, helped us to override our fear. The kitchen, with its fire, hot oven and sharp knives, is also a strange and dangerous place if we are a beginner. There are so many unfamiliar things to do, and to make it worse, some of them need to be done at the same time as well. To convince us that cooking can be done safely, we have only to see somebody triumphantly coming out of the kitchen and serving a delicious dinner. But the most important lesson from the swimming metaphor is that our preconception didn’t match with the reality, that our solid body can actually float in the water. Once we overcome our fear, our common sense will discover the appropriate movements for our limbs. Without fear and other preconceptions, the kitchen too becomes a place for discovery. From the art of painting, as another example, we would noticed that using other colours and brushes than what we habitually applied, could change our approach and choice of objects. To expand our cooking repertoire, why don’t we introduce some unknown ingredients or utensils as a prod? If we look again at our definition of skilful cooking, we can see that cooking is just one example of creative effort. Therefore any effective way of revealing potential truth, beauty or goodness , lends itself as a metaphor for cooking. Cooking metaphors can help us organise and make some sense of the bewildering business of cooking. In this way they work as a cooking grammar.

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Metaphors from various activities speak to us from different sides of our being. They will hence ‘flavour’ our cooking with our other life experiences. Metaphors are antidotes to literal-mindedness and fragmented life, they connect the seemingly unconnected.

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CHAPTER 4

Your Own Way I don’t believe that painting by numbers, putting prescribed colours on numbered segments of a drawing, can teach us to paint. It doesn’t teach the essentials, negotiating with forms and colours. Elaborate recipes with prescribed list of ingredients and detailed instruction might be able to help us to reproduce someone else favourite dish, but if we don’t know why, for what purpose particular actions are chosen, we will keep struggling to find our own way of cooking. When we cook, we have to find a solution for a specific culinary situation. For example, I want to treat a friend to a good meal, something a little bit special, colourful, with a variety of taste and texture, to express my appreciation of her company. I don’t have much time to do the shopping and the cooking and I can’t afford more than six pounds. She is a vegan and she can’t eat gluten or food that is too spicy. At home I have potatoes and a good sized aubergine which I would like to use. Do you think that you could find a recipe which will match all these requirements? It is unlikely, but even if you could, you would miss the joy of finding your own answer. The joy which will feed your confidence in living and playing with new challenges. “... Whether we are listening to a Bach concerto, looking at a painting by Giotto, or grasping the logic of a theorem in mathematics, a considerable part of the satisfaction we obtain is derived from our appreciation of order and balance. And if we The Jewel in the Cabbage 20


ourselves, in however humble a way, succeed in creating order where none existed, by making sense out of the obscure, wresting a garden from the wilderness, or even arranging a bowl of flowers in a way which we find satisfying, we achieve a fulfilment which can be as gratifying as the satisfaction of our nutritional or sexual requirements. .....” Anthony Storr - The Dynamics of Creation Playing piano in the battle field In French restaurant kitchen jargon, the collection of the kitchen equipment is called “batterie de cuisine”, a mixture of associations of a battlefield with the chef as the chief commander and an orchestra because they refer to the cooker as a piano too. With efficiency the troop conquers the task through destruction, slaughtering, cutting to pieces and then it creates by regrouping and transforming the prepared materials into new forms. So there you are in the middle of a battlefield, what are you going to do? Look for a cookery book? Check the recipe? The cookery books tell you of another battle, where there are ingredients or utensils you don’t have. And usually they tell you to cook by numbers, grams, minutes, centilitres or centigrade which blur your sight of things you’ve got at hand. The middle way in the kitchen Was it a battle? No, not necessarily so, because we can also see it as a game, an arena for negotiation. We transcend the struggle by finding and following the middle way. It is not the way of mediocrity but of excellence, it is not the middle between good and bad, but the overcoming of two opposite bad extremes, just like riding a bicycle without falling to the left or to the right. In cooking The Jewel in the Cabbage 21


we have to overcome many pairs of extremes, like burnt or uncooked, too spicy or bland, too much or little, too wet or dry, serving it too late or early etc., etc. To cook well, we need to negotiate all these pairs of extremes at the appropriate time. It is only daunting if we see it as a battle field against many errors, but cooking is more like an exciting playing field for improvement and perfection. If you are a pianist, why can’t you play the French kitchen ‘piano’ with the same ease, without worrying too much about the pitfalls of the loudness or duration, but with the joy of homing in on the perfect phrasing, dynamics or tempo? You could improvise or add ornamentation too. Ziggy, our pastel-drawing teacher told us that we need to know when to stop, not to work too long and put too many layers of colours or our drawing will end up like an overcooked meal, dead, having lost its character. He was of course using cooking as a metaphor for drawing, but the metaphor could be applied in the opposite way too. Don’t try too hard to find the exact correspondence between cooking and its metaphors, you won’t succeed, but let your intuition work for you. Unstoppable success ”.. For example, someone who wishes to steal a precious jewel, to attack a formidable enemy, or to make the acquaintance of a beautiful woman must, at all times, watch intently for opportunity, adjusting to changing events and shifting circumstances. Anything sought for with such intensity will surely be gained. If the desire to

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search for the Way becomes as intense as this, you will succeed no matter how high you must shoot or no matter how deep you must plumb........�. Zen Master Dogen - A Primer of Soto Zen In addition to the two main components of cooking; awareness and care, we also need interest and confidence. We need awareness to know our purpose, what we want, and we need awareness to assess our situation, to find the means available to achieve our goal. Without being aware of our purpose, we can’t even start, we are already lost in the jungle of possibilities. On the other hand if our purpose is too rigid and narrow we will face insurmountable obstacles and we will miss good or even better alternatives. Do we have the confidence to proceed? With awareness, care and confidence, we can walk on the middle way, maintaining the conditions for excellence. In this way we develop our cooking sensibility. Cooking is not a theoretical knowledge, it is an art learned in the kitchen and at the dining table. We learn from experience how much flour and margarine thicken a sauce, for example. Cookery books can only help us when we have this sensibility, without it, we have to follow instructions slavishly, adding indigestible information and obscuring our genuine perception. Confidence in cooking is based on self confidence, that we can manage our life, that we can learn to live well. Maybe we forget how we learned confidence, as in the case of walking or speaking. We crave for a trick that can help us to by-pass the process of gaining confidence. Many people see a recipe as one of these tricks. The Jewel in the Cabbage 23


Once, when I invited a friend for a meal, he was delighted with the food and asked me whether I had a recipe for it. To remind him, to be in touch with his confidence and proceed from there, I asked him whether he had a recipe for seducing a woman, something he was skilled in. His face lit up and he smiled and agreed that recipes were beside the point. Actualised by myriad things To cook well, one needs to be aware of the benchmark of good food. For most people, it must be delicious or filling, for some people the food needs to be healthy, for others food needs to be ethically produced without harming the environment. Let us be more ambitious, why don’t we aim to cook food that fulfils all the requirements. A daunting challenge. But remember that with confidence, awareness and care we can go far. To accomplish anything successfully, we need to see the situation as it really is, clearly, free from our biases. Here is what Dogen says about understanding reality; “To study the Reality is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be actualised by myriad things...”. To cook well, we too have to study ourselves. We need to know who we are, where we are at, our habits, our conditionings, our wants and needs, we have to be authentic. When we cook it is not Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver, or our mother that cooks. To forget the self is to forget our fixed view and ideas, to go back to “beginner’s mind”, to be prepared to accept whatever is happening, loosening our attachment and self identification. To forget views such as; "I always hated spinach and I am never going to like it” or “this is my style of cooking and there is no better way". To be actualised by The Jewel in the Cabbage 24


myriad things is to do what is needed, facing the challenges and using the opportunities provided by the actual situation. Perhaps “ to forget the self is to be actualised by myriad things� means also that when we go back to the freshness of a beginner’s mind, things like ingredients or utensils, will get the chance to show their hidden characteristics. When this happens, new ways of combining and processing food will come to the front.

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CHAPTER 5

In Search of Quality With all senses on duty To appreciate food we use all of our sense faculties; taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing if we include the sound of nuts and biscuits crushed in our mouth. Our imagination, ideas and associations colour the eating experience too. So there are innumerable combinations of perceptions that can influence our food evaluation. When we eat in a restaurant for example, firstly we have a concept to deal with, the menu. Then when the food arrives on the table we can see how the ingredients are cut, prepared and arranged into a pattern of colours, how the gravy coats the roast or the sauce blends bits and pieces into a warm tinted stew. Maybe we can get a whiff of its aroma too. As soon as we start eating, each morsel reveals its composition of flavours and fragrances. It reveals also its consistency and its temperature. Eating takes time and the order and the duration of these sensations determine our experience too. Indeed the impression is influenced even before we eat. Doesn’t food taste better when we are hungry? Eating gives us a great opportunity to sharpen our perception, but on many occasions we don’t make use of it because our attention isn’t fully there. It is a pity, it is like going to a concert and reading a newspaper oblivious to the music. We are what we eat. Without being aware of what we eat and that we are eating, we are lost, disoriented in one mode of our life and disconnected from the reality of the nourishing world. It is not only that we miss one of the The Jewel in the Cabbage 26


sources of enjoyment, we miss knowing what is good or bad for our well-being too. Talking about food during a meal can give a focus to our eating experience, enabling us to appreciate the sensations better. It is almost like adding salt to our cooking, it can make the food more interesting if we add a small quantity but it will ruin the experience if we overdo it. Sharper taste, wider palette Our taste can become blunt because of too much and too strongly flavoured food. How can we be aware of subtle tastes if we eat a very hot, spicy dish, especially if we are addicted to it? Our sense of taste will also diminish if we always eat the same type of food. The sense of taste goes to sleep through boredom. Travelling and exposure to other culinary traditions can open a new register. The taste also can be masked by something like tomato ketchup or soya sauce. It is destroyed when, without that particular sauce, we experience the food as tasteless. To refine taste we need to free it from the numbing effect, from the smothering blanket and to wake it up to multi varied culinary sensations. Woken up we can taste things beyond our habitual responses, we can taste the real combination of sweet, sour and bitter flavours of an orange for example. With a sharper taste we create a wider palette to paint with, a wider palate to appreciate and to articulate culinary refinements. Instead of only one orange there are many shades of it.

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Breadth and depth We've been looking at widening our breadth of experience, but to explore the whole range of possibility, we need to focus too. Self imposed limitations release us from the tangles of trivia and force us to look deeper for what is truly desirable. Only after stopping eating meat and fish did I start to discover the richness and diversity of the vegetarian world. From just a few vegetables playing side roles, many new ones turned up on the stage, capable of playing in the foreground. The following illustrations show how we can use limitation to spur our learning. We can ask ourselves for example, what kind of dish or snack can we make with potatoes? Can we make a starter with it? Soup? Salad? How many variations? Side dish? Main dish? Dessert? Boiled, baked, roast, gratin, pan fried, deep fried, mashed, grated, cut into sticks, as a pie, cake or croquettes, on its own or with other ingredients? In this way, we can discover the rich potentiality of the potato and learn to appreciate it better. We can search in other directions too. For example if we can only serve soup, can we make it with banana or peanuts or rice or whatever is available? This will stretch our understanding of soup. Gifts from the uninvited Accidents happen occasionally, like overcooking, using wrong herbs or spices, adding sugar instead of salt or burning some of the ingredients. An “accident”, because it is unexpected and outside of our routine can teach us a new way of cooking. We shouldn’t be deterred by them, we can see it as an opportunity, a challenge to make the best use of this new situation. For example, instead of making a lightly cooked stir-fry, can we create a stew by adding The Jewel in the Cabbage 28


beans and a thickish sauce? Or can we substitute or just omit the affected ingredients? Might this be a good opportunity to try an unusual mix of herbs? Torch for the dark corners Recipes, like ideas and concepts, can conceal or distort our direct understanding, but they can also help us like a pointer or a torch, to bring light to the shady areas we are barely aware of. They can change our perspective by giving us a new context. Although designing our own meal by using our own intuition and experience gives us more satisfaction than just following cooking instruction, great recipes can take our cooking to another level. There are always ingredients or methods of cooking unknown to us to be discovered. So, cookery books and great recipes can be useful when we are ready.

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CHAPTER 6

The Resurrection of Spinach and Co. We are conditioned beings; we tend to use an old strategy to face a new situation. If we are not aware of this, we become dysfunctional. Complete dependence on the parents, for example, is an adequate way of living for a very young child, but it becomes an illness if we maintain that kind of dependency throughout our life. We too can have a richer experience of life, culinary life in particular, if we can free ourselves from our old, no longer appropriate ways of choosing our food. Perhaps we buried the taste of spinach or curry ceremoniously with a vow to never eat it again. It could also happen that some vegetables fell out of favour in our family and slowly slid into oblivion. Whatever the cause may be, if we end up with only a very limited option of ingredients, then it is time for "soul" searching, ours, and also the souls of the dead spinach, cabbage and co. to bring them back to life again in our imagination. We need to recall when and where we left the spinach behind, for instance. If the event was too painful maybe it is completely deleted from our memory, leaving us with the conviction that we always disliked spinach. Our parents or other older relatives can be of help in our search, but if they themselves never liked spinach, it is almost certain that we didn't have any direct experience with spinach and our dislike of it is based merely on prejudice. On the other hand over exposure through having to eat it time after time could kill our taste for the spinach too. The Jewel in the Cabbage 30


If we lost our liking for it when we started eating at the boarding school, we can then ask ourselves whether it was our decision or because other children didn't like it and we succumbed to group pressure. If it was our decision, was it because the spinach was always badly prepared or because we had an unrealistic expectation, like wanting it to taste the same as carrot? Maybe conforming with others was the right choice at that time, but we don't need to continue avoiding spinach forever. Some vegetables or ingredients can be sacrificed for the sake of self image. For example cabbages being inexpensive , can be banned from the household by a person who thinks of himself as rich and having sophisticated taste. This happens in the other direction too, vegetables like artichokes or asparagus because of they are thought of as luxury food, are anathema for people who consider themselves ordinary. Garlic and curry spices are only for the foreigners but not for the ultra nationalists. Some people still think that kale or millet are food for cows and birds. Of course we don't have to like or to eat everything edible, but to live happily we need to make our decision consciously based on actual facts. I am a vegetarian, not because I don't like meat or fish, but I don't want to eat them out of my ethical considerations. I don't like to spend a lot of money on food because of my limited resources, but if I were given chanterelles or truffles I would readily cook them. Not only kale and millet but young nettles and dandelion leaves are good enough to spark my curiosity for culinary adventures. For one reason or another, in our world of taste some ingredients or dishes disappeared through the gate "not for me", they are dead The Jewel in the Cabbage 31


and forgotten or even worse, falsely remembered. Our health, wealth and social circumstances change with years, the availability of food and ways of preparing food change too. If we want to keep up with the reality, we need to re-evaluate our decisions appropriately. Only if we dare to suspend our judgement on the damned, is there a chance that they will be redeemed. By bringing to light the occasion when we forsook them, we might remember the reason. Maybe we can see now that our reasoning was biased by inadequate and out of date facts, unfounded fears, spurious assumptions, superstitions or emotional needs. Once we have seen the error of our ways, we can start to rehabilitate those doomed vegetables, dishes etc. and bring them back to our dinner table. Remember that we are exploring food we don't like, but not food that we are allergic to. While some people say that they are allergic to something meaning that they don't like it, it happens too that some people are allergic to something they like. So we need to be careful if we are genuinely allergic, because allergic reactions can be fatal. When we can suspend our prejudices we can learn to appreciate the food anew through direct experience. We are able to sense it with full awareness, giving full attention to its smell, taste and texture. If we can keep our attention on what is happening, our experience will override ideas, memories and associations. It is very hard to do; maybe we have to begin with re-evaluating food we habitually reject although we can't remember its actual taste any longer. The easiest way to appreciate food and to overcome prejudice, is through love, even just falling in love. Love expands our sphere of The Jewel in the Cabbage 32


concern reaching to our beloved. We are curious why our lover or friend likes spinach, for example. I started to appreciate wild flowers and animals when I fell in love with a nature devotee. Falling in love with a foreign country or its cultural / culinary tradition will stretch our food appreciation too. The process of discovering and rediscovering the culinary world, is like enlarging and rectifying our vocabulary, it helps us to understand and enjoy life with more scope and depth and therefore it will improve our ability to share life’s richness with others.

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CHAPTER 7

The Buddha in the Aubergine “Handle even a single leaf of green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha. This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf...” Dogen – Instruction for the Zen Cook Arts and science in the kitchen Kitchen activity can be mystifying to some, because they see it either as sacred or as something below their dignity. When this happens, their normal ability is paralysed, forgetting that in cooking, science and common sense still apply. My friend, a carpenter who can saw planks straight and to size, amazed me time and again with his jagged slices of potato or loaf. Don’t be surprised by a scientist friend of yours, if he is making soup for 12 people and he doesn’t know the right size of pot to use. Painters too can overlook the many colours of ingredients and mix them up into a nondescript meal. Calculation shouldn’t be the base of friendship, but if friends travel together, for example, they still need calculation to know how to plan and finance the journey. So it is in cooking, the function of inspiration, metaphors and poetical imagination is not to replace our rational mind but to place it in its appropriate context.

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Three kitchen graces It is common to accept that some art forms, such as music can elevate and expand our consciousness. Dogen, as quoted above, urges us to broaden the scope, to let even a single leaf of green show its real nature. How can cooking expand our awareness? We have seen before that to cook well we need awareness and care and that we learn by doing. Here, we are going to look at the importance of beauty, truth and goodness, the three graces, on our cooking path. Let us explore how we can appreciate a lemon through beauty, even beauty from outside the culinary world, through the poem of Pablo Neruda ..we opened two halves of a miracle, congealed acid trickled from the hemispheres of a star, the most intense liqueur of nature, unique, vivid, concentrated, born of the cool, fresh lemon, of its fragrant house, its acid, secret symmetry... Ode to the lemon, translated by M. S. Peden The Jewel in the Cabbage 35


Was it outside the culinary world? Yes and no. It is beautiful as a poem and because of that, the lemon becomes more vivid. The poem makes us aware of the lemon’s fragrant fresh acidity. When we cook well, we make something delicious, i.e. something with a beautiful taste, in doing so we make the eaters aware of a particular aspect of an ingredient. As an example; a lightly salted slice of aubergine fried with little olive oil, will reveal its hidden beautiful taste and texture. Different ways of cooking aubergine will show us its many other qualities. Cooking can also reveal truth hidden behind our superficial and habitual thinking. When we think of a curry, we assume that there is a fixed dish, apart from any other things, but when we cook we realise for ourselves that there is no such thing as “curry”, it is only a name added when we have prepared and put together certain ingredients. We can also see that we are not the proper creator of the “curry” either, our cooking is only a link of a long and complex chain of food processing. After we cook our “curry”, soon it will become whoever eats the meal, perhaps our friend. In this way cooking can help us to see the interdependency of life. We can also learn to appreciate nettles, for example through goodness. Once I spent a whole week on my own just outside of forest. I went there to enjoy the tranquillity and the beauty of the nature. I brought some provisions with me to the caravan where I stayed, but after several days I realised that my vegetable supply wouldn’t be enough. It was in the spring and there were nettles which grew in abundance along the footpath. I knew that nettles were edible and nutritious especially when they were still tender. Milarepa, a Tibetan yogi, lived on nettles for a long while. I The Jewel in the Cabbage 36


collected them and prepared them as if they were spinach, I made potato and nettle soup and the day after I made pancakes with nettle and onion filling. Here, goodness, doing the right thing for one self and others, consisted in clearing the nettles from the path for the caravan’s owner and cooking them well to nourish myself. Such prepared nettles were not only good but also had a beautiful taste. If I serve such nettle filled pancakes to a friend on a different occasion, as an act of goodness, this can challenge her view and shift her awareness. Nettles are not only nasty stinging weeds. Maybe next time when she sees a clump of weeds she will wonder whether they are nettles and look at them with more attention. Probably she will notice too the lively, almost transparent green colour of the beautiful serrated leaves. Beauty calls our attention, truth shows things as they are and goodness urges us to act according to the beauty and truth we have seen, they form a powerful combination and with awareness they enhance each other. The poetry of mashed potatoes Oscar, a Mexican friend, used to say " It's poetry!" when it happened that a dish turned out to be very delicate and tasty, especially when it was made with an unexpected combination of common ingredients or made in an unusual way. I imagine that if there is poetry in cooking, there will also be its parallels in the unimaginative use of language and set phrases. To cook just following the accepted nutritional requirements of vitamins or calories for example, is very prosaic, the same with The Jewel in the Cabbage 37


cooking which is dictated only by price considerations. Reproducing dishes through standard recipes disregarding specific needs and circumstances is like using clichĂŠs. Some people like to sprinkle tomato ketchup or chilli sauce indiscriminately on their food, just like a person who adds expletives or trifling words every time he speaks. How frequently do we take short cuts and sacrifice beauty in the kitchen? We need to remember that no matter how busy we are, when we cook, that moment is our life. A moment we can't afford to overlook. There is more poetry in cooking a simple meal well than in preparing a more complicated one with half measures. Poetic cooking unveils beauty ignored by a pragmatic approach. It is said that beauty jolts us from our presumed centre of the universe. Beauty reminds us that there is something else in the world that is more interesting than ourselves. Beauty catches our attention, relaxes the grip of ego. When we let go of our self preoccupation, our worry, planning and scheming, our consciousness expands so that we can see things unnoticed before, the hidden beauty. It is not a circular but an augmentative process, beauty cleanses awareness and a cleaner awareness perceives more beauty. Continuing with our writing metaphor; to write a poem or a piece of prose, familiarity with the language, its grammar, its vocabulary etc. is indispensable. In prose, we use our knowledge to let the language say what we want. Poetry is more like a dialogue with the language to find beauty. With cooking, we need to know its grammar too, the basic cooking principle and its vocabulary, the wide range of ingredients. To cook poetically, we have to be sensitive to the many qualities of the ingredients and aware of how The Jewel in the Cabbage 38


the ingredients can complement each other. Eating the food or reading the books of great cooks can help us to imbibe this sensitivity. No poetry will emerge without a set of principles of good taste. With cooking, taste is not only figurative but also literal. It is a direct experience in the mouth. Presumably taste is connected with our survival, it is our ability to discriminate good food from bad food. Unfortunately in industrialised society many of our acquired tastes are for processed food, that is, food without its freshness and contaminated with additives which usually are also addictive. What is good for the survival of the food industry may not be good for us. We can reinvigorate our genuine sense of taste by exploring the array of flavours of natural ingredients like fresh fruit and vegetables, and their combination in good cooking. The spirit of joy and magnanimity Another way to improve cooking I received from the thirteenth century Zen Master Dogen in the form of his “Instructions for zen cooks”. Dogen lived in Japan when Buddhism was in decline, when the practice became either highly esoteric and elitist or superficial and meaningless. He went to China to find a genuine teaching and a better way of practising to reinvigorate Buddhism in Japan. His encounter with some monastery cooks impressed him greatly and stretched his idea of practice beyond just meditation and studying the scriptures. Dogen asked his disciples to “strive to maintain a spirit of joy and magnanimity, along with the caring attitude of a parent”. Why shouldn’t we be joyful if we have the opportunity and capability of serving others? A magnanimous mind is like a mountain, stable and impartial, it accepts the ups and downs of life, the easy and difficult tasks, the inferior and exquisite ingredients, The Jewel in the Cabbage 39


the noble and lowly guests with equanimity. The caring attitude of a parent is needed not only towards people we cook for but also towards the utensils and the ingredients. In his “ Instruction for the zen cooks” Dogen didn’t concern himself so much with what to cook, but rather with the attitude towards cooking. He inspired his students to become good cooks by becoming good people. He mentioned nevertheless the traditional prerequisites for good food which include the harmony of six flavours and three qualities (The flavours are bitter, sour, sweet, salty, mild and hot. The qualities are light and flexible, clean and neat, conscientious and thorough).

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CHAPTER 8

The Culinary Cult We sometimes see things as idols, objects of worship and sometimes as icons, symbols of greater reality. An idol is a materialised ideal or an idea in a definite form and it is identified with what it represents. For example, one can make sex an idol for happiness, with one’s awareness narrowed down and coloured by the sexual urge, one sees the world as a sexual arena and people as sexual objects. Food, like sex is another popular idol, worshipped through the TV, books and glossy magazines. It is a powerful one, in the affluent society it manages to make obesity almost the norm. Food advertisements try to convince us that we can have a good life by buying their goods. They make us want to consume when we aren't hungry. Food idolatry sets in if we over identify ourselves with our taste sense. We keep eating, in spite of our full stomach, wilfully forgetting its bad effect on our heart, our health in general and our mental state. Idolatry turns food into poison. If we are too far astray on the idol path, we are like the fly that entered the room through the door and got trapped at the closed window. Only the pain from banging our head again and again against the glass of reality, will make us realise our error. In contrast, an icon is an open door to freedom, a pointer to something beyond itself. It provides one with a larger perspective The Jewel in the Cabbage 41


and a deeper understanding of reality. One can only see an icon as an icon if one can see with clear awareness, and paradoxically with clear awareness one can see everything, including "idols", as icons. With awareness we can de-idolise any idol. Overcoming kitchen’s temptations We sometimes want to be admired as a great chef, the creator of an exquisite dinner. Maybe we acknowledge the role of our “special” ingredient or our favourite technique in our success. However with just a dash of awareness we can realise how little our contribution was compared with what went into the long production and distribution chains of any of our raw materials or cooking utensils. It is seductive to think that we will become a better cook if only we buy a new cooking gadget. How many times, for example, have I been tempted to the point of near obsession to acquire a trendy new set of knives, a food processor or other equipments? Most of the time I haven't bought them and after a while realised that I didn't actually need them. Occasionally I bought something new, but what it mainly did was clutter the space and collect dust. Cooking ordinary vegetable with skill and care for the satisfaction of our guests can free ourselves from our needs of props and of self preoccupation. With genuine awareness we realise that everything, including ourselves, is already special. We are the result of our particular conditioning. To transform an ordinary thing into an icon, Dogen instructs his monastery cook that when he cooks rice, to see the pot as his own The Jewel in the Cabbage 42


head and the water as his own blood, admonishing him to act considerately in the interconnected world. Dogen also asks the cook to handle a single leaf of a green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha. To remind the monastery cook that cooking is a practice of serving, before he serves the meal the cook should perform a ritual by facing the hall where everyone is practising, offering them incense and bowing nine times. Transference of merits is another spiritual practice in the kitchen. It is to remind the cook not to appropriate whatever good he had achieved, but use it for the benefit of others, not only the food but also his skills and reputation. Discovering elixir at dinner table A moment of silence before we start eating can help us to disengage from other activities and preoccupation. This will allow us to be more aware of our body and of the food we are going to eat, it can make us more aware of our eating companions too. Do we feel hungry or thirsty? Do we need rich food or just light fare? Eating without being aware of our needs is like shopping without knowing what we are really looking for, exposing ourselves to the danger of overeating. Be aware of the food in front of you. What is it? We need to go further than its name tag, to look behind the cloud of associations or promotion gimmicks. We can bypass these veils by being in the present and relying on our direct experience. Look at it attentively, smell it, feel its texture and temperature and taste it for yourself. The Jewel in the Cabbage 43


Be aware of our eating companions. Maybe they need food as much or even more than we do. Feeling hungry and thirsty is the real call of nature, it reminds us that we are a dependent being. Acknowledging, being grateful for the support from nature and paying close attention to the feedback we receive through our senses, will help us to see food as an icon. As an icon, food turns into elixir and makes us healthy. It may even help us to realise that we have never been born as a separate identity, and we are just part of the interconnected and changing reality.

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CHAPTER 9

Cooking Unbounded We cook for different practical purposes; some people cook for relaxation as I did when I had a nine-to-five job, to wind down from the working day and rush-hour traffic. Trimming, cutting and arranging vegetables of different shades of colours can be very soothing. It is like preparing a zen garden on a chopping board. Some see cooking as a hobby, an opportunity to try out new recipes, or to play and improvise, creating new dishes, or recreating those seen or tasted before. Now and again we cook to express our care for our friends by treating them to a special meal. Sharing food can communicate sentiments that words cannot. Of course many cook simply to live well and healthily. Using ingredients which are in season, is not only important due to quality and price considerations, but also it will keep us in touch with the cycle of Nature. If we cook regularly, whether it is every weekend or every day, some routines will creep in and we can lose our enthusiasm. Cooking something different can help us to refresh our vigour. Inviting new friends or cooking in other environments can help us too. But the most important thing is to remember that cooking can be a powerful and joyful exercise. It is a practice that can help us to be in the real world, rid us from our fantasies and be alive to what is The Jewel in the Cabbage 45


actually happening. Cooking is joyful only if we are committed to learning, if we can accept our mistakes as teachings. In the talk mentioned earlier “The Taste of Freedom”, Sangharakshita points out that one cannot be free unless one breaks the fetters of habit, superficiality and vagueness. Here we are going to apply this only to one aspect of us, our cooking. When our cooking becomes free, by using metaphors we can expand our freedom to other activities, maybe even to our whole life. Habit, superficiality and vagueness are the antitheses of our definition of skilful cooking, namely “ preparing desirable food by making the best use of the available resources”. Our appetite, need and desire for food change during the day, the week and the year, so do the available resources. Habit wouldn’t be able to respond to these demands. With superficiality we can only make a botch of our cooking. Vagueness, not knowing what it wants, will mess up opportunities, it will make our cooking grey and insipid. Overcoming habit Do we cook the same food most of the time? Perhaps we cook with regularity, like preparing the same roast for Sundays or another fixed menu for each day of the week. Maybe we always cook curry or pasta without consideration of the changing circumstances, we cook it for lunch, for dinner, at home or when we are on holiday abroad. To break the habit we need to be aware of it and convinced that habit is not always advantageous to us. It is like having the same answer to all sort of situations. It is boring and utterly unsatisfactory. Habit evades questions we need to face. For example, if people praised a curry when we made it once, we may become attached to it. Our early success can compel us to The Jewel in the Cabbage 46


reproduce again and again the same ‘frozen’ curry. Our fear of taking new challenges prevents us moving further on our culinary path. Habit is also not as practical as commonly believed. When we do our shopping, it is more profitable to buy whatever good stuff is on offer than to blinker our eyes just looking for curry ingredients. Do we only invite curry lovers for dinner? Why don’t we retrace our cooking back to where it was free from the smothering habit. It doesn’t matter how far, even if it leaves us with only a simple food preparation, like frying eggs. The important thing is to regain the feel of genuine cooking, with life in it. We know for example, why we use a certain number of eggs, why we break them in a particular way or add other ingredients, what sort of pan and type of fat we use, the fire intensity etc. If we know these, we can adjust our cooking to match the need, whether it is a simple fried egg for breakfast or a Spanish tortilla for high tea. It is like retrieving the living ember from an untended bonfire, buried under a thick layer of ash, and kindling it back to its vigour. The joy of the rediscovery of creative cooking will evaporate our stale habit. Overcoming superficiality Our cooking will be superficial if we always follow recipes, tips and tricks without understanding. Tinkering and patching our dish with readymade sauces to make it look different, may actually confuse us further. To overcome superficiality, we need to free ourselves from bewildering and incoherent do’s and don’ts. We need to learn to see that each handling has a different function and how the steps we take are in line with our scheme of skilful cooking. Our curiosity to find an alternative to the familiar can help us pierce The Jewel in the Cabbage 47


through superficiality. We can even use craving for some less than ideal food, for a breakthrough. Eating a certain type of food can only be wrong in a context. With a deeper understanding we can breach the superficial rule of not eating it and find a way to compensate the action. Sugar rich and greasy food is bad if we are overweight. Maybe when we take a slice of rich cake we could restore the balance by having less fat and less sugar in our meal. Isn’t this an opportunity to discover or invent low calorie dishes? Overcoming vagueness Vagueness will creep into our cooking when we start without deciding what to cook, hoping things will be o.k. of their own accord and proceeding aimlessly. With vagueness, our cooking will be pushed in different directions by our changing mood and pulled by varieties of irrelevant external conditions. Free from vagueness, we can make a strategy and prioritize our actions. It doesn’t mean that we should exclude intuitions and odd chances, but we need clarity to be able to discern the helpful from the unhelpful ones. Once we overcome habit, superficiality and vagueness, we can taste freedom in cooking. We can cook anywhere, anytime, just as having learned to walk or to speak, we love to exercise these skills on any appropriate occasions. The spirit of cooking has manifested in us and we are ready to respond to the changing culinary challenges.

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CHAPTER 10

A Pinch of Logic and Strategy We can plan our cooking successfully only if we have a clear target and we know our facilities and restrictions. Here is an example from chapter 4: ... I want to treat a friend to a good meal, something a little bit special, colourful, with a variety of taste and texture, to express my appreciation for her company. I don’t have much time to do the shopping and the cooking and I can’t afford more than six pounds. She is a vegan and she can’t eat gluten or food that is too spicy. At home I have got potatoes and a good sized aubergine which I would like to use. Our target: meal which is colourful with variety of taste and texture Ingredients available: aubergine, potatoes and others worth less than six pounds Restrictions: vegan, gluten free, not too spicy, not much time for shopping and cooking. I would choose the aubergine as the main feature, as the ingredient for ratatouille. Flavoured with garlic, herbs and olive oil, this aromatic dish is coated with red tomato sauce. To balance the soft texture of ratatouille, we can make crisp potato “pancakes” as a side-dish. A quick way to prepare, is by grating the potatoes and spreading a portion in a hot and lightly oiled frying The Jewel in the Cabbage 49


pan and frying it until it turns golden. To complete the play of colours and the protein requirement, I would chose dark green spinach leaves dotted with marinated white tofu pieces for salad. With good planning, this three part meal can be prepared in forty five minutes or less. In this way, the cooking strategy, plan of action, appears almost of its own a accord. However a grasp of basic cooking methods, techniques and familiarity with the preparation of model dishes, will make our task easier. We will deal with these issues in the rest of this chapter and the next one.

Cooking methods From the frying pan to the open fire A recent study reveals not only that we need to eat a variety of vegetables, but also that we benefit most if we eat each different vegetable prepared in various ways. Of course cooks have known this for ages, intuitively or guided by their taste, as it is apparent from the plethora of recipes. There are many ways of cooking such as frying, boiling, steaming, using an oven or an open fire. Each has its own merit. Although most of the cooking methods are straight forward, I would like to draw your attention to some less obvious aspects. With pan frying we make use of the heat from the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Cutting the ingredients into flat and thin slices and adding a little oil will improve the contact with the pan’s surface. Oil will also prevent the pieces from sticking to the pan. The Jewel in the Cabbage 50


Deep frying is a quick way to cook chunks or compound pieces. The heat comes through the hot oil from all directions, it evaporates water from the food and makes it dry and crispy. If the oil is hot enough it will seal the surface of the pieces quickly by forming crusts. The crust will prevent the oil penetrating from the outside and also keep the inside of the piece moist. Certain pieces need a coating like batter to provide the crust. Cooking in the oven is cooking in dry hot air. It is relatively slow, air is not a good heat conductor, but some ovens have a fan to blow air through the heating elements to spread the heat better. Obviously cooking in the oven is a way to make food that shouldn’t be soggy or greasy, food like bread, cake, pies or pieces of vegetable like parsnip or pumpkin. It can also be used as an alternative to frying, it is practical when we have to cook in batches or when we have to cook items too fragile for pan frying. Compared to ordinary frying, oven cooking can produce less greasy food, the pieces need only a thin coating of oil. Boiling food in water was an ingenious invention, in spite of its low profile. How can we eat rice, dried pulses, pasta and many other dehydrated foodstuff without boiling? It gives the moisture back, it cooks and with other condiments it enhances the taste too. Unlike oil, water being free from high calorie fat, animal or even plant products, is free from dietary restrictions. Its boiling temperature being lower than oil, prevents food from getting burnt. Steaming is a gentler way of cooking, but beware steam can burn our fingers easier than dry hot air. Steaming keeps the food moist and retains more of its flavour and nutrients than boiling. We can also cook delicate forms, food that otherwise would disintegrate in The Jewel in the Cabbage 51


boiling water; stuffed vegetables for example. If the steamer is fully loaded, with only small gaps between the pieces, the heat will be unevenly spread. A two tier steamer is more practical than a simple one, it provides larger floor surface and exchanging the positions of the tiers will improve the heat distribution. Open fire is the natural heat source, working with the elemental force directly can invigorate us. Potatoes or sweet potatoes cook well in the hot ashes under the embers of burning wood. In Indonesia people used to cook some types of food by wrapping it tightly with banana leaves and immersing it in the hot ash. Corn on the cob or skewered vegetable pieces will be enriched with a smoky flavour when they are grilled on the fire.

Cutting to size It is important to cut ingredients into a regular size, the size can be different for each different ingredient. This will give a pattern, a sort of rhythm to the dish we make, an important aspect that is frequently overlooked. Also if we cut the harder-to-cook vegetable into smaller pieces than the softer one, the vegetables will have the same cooking time. To create more variety, we can cut carrots for example, into half moon slices for one dish and into sticks for another. Naturally we have to cut the vegetables into manageable sizes depending on how the food is going to be served and eaten.

Planning and timing When I cooked at a friend’s place, he was amazed that I cooked the same meal he frequently did in less than half the time he usually needed. The meal consisted of lentil stew, stir-fried vegetables and brown rice, He cooked the dishes in sequence and prepared each of The Jewel in the Cabbage 52


them in progressive steps. He didn’t realise that he could cook parts of a dish separately. The simple logic is; the more elements of the menu we can cook simultaneously, the shorter total cooking time will be. We have also to make sure that the various dishes will be ready at the required time during the meal. The brown rice has the longest cooking time and it can be cooked straight away, so we should start with this. The lentil stew consists of lentils and vegetables. Although lentils cook relatively quick, it is good to start boiling it soon after we have started cooking the rice. Except for washing, the lentils can be cooked straight away to make use of free gas rings. The preparations of the vegetables for the stew can be done while the lentils are on the fire. To finish the stew, we have to fry the vegetables and add them to the simmering lentils. My friend would start with preparing the vegetables before starting to cook the lentils, making the total cooking time of the stew longer. The same principle is applicable for preparing stir fry; don’t wait until all the vegetables have been washed and chopped, but start with the ingredients that need to be fried first. Onion and ginger for example, because they are the givers of the background taste. Harder vegetables like winter carrots need to be cooked earlier than the others because they need a longer cooking time.

Using herbs and spices Here too our experience is the best source of learning, but why shouldn’t we find out how the people in Italy, South of France or Spain for example, use thyme, oregano or rosemary, these herbs grow in abundance there and have been used for hundreds of years in the regional cooking. Adding herbs or spices is like putting The Jewel in the Cabbage 53


colours on a drawing to reveal and emphasise a feature or to invoke a mood. Spices are usually stronger than herbs. Beware of overwhelming delicate-tasting vegetables. An Indian friend doesn’t like potato very much, most of the time when potato is served to him, he leaves the bits on his plate. But he can cook amazing potato curry, one of his favourite dishes. For him the potatoes are the carrier of added taste, maybe he is an abstract painter.

Right quantity People tend to misjudge quantities and cook too much, either by oversight or because of fear. We often forget that things add up. When we prepare a dish with many ingredients we need only a small quantity of each, but we are tempted to use more because each seems too little on its own. If we plan a meal with more courses, we need to adjust the quantities too. Cooking too much for fear of not having enough food to serve is regrettable. We need to learn to cook just enough. Food appreciation diminishes soon after we have satisfied our need. We would like to eat beyond that point when our sense of ‘having’ overrides our judgement. Serving too much food is wasting resources and the opportunity to enjoy it in the best way.

Cooking for a large number If we are used to cooking for four it will be easy enough to cook for eight or ten. But when we have to cook for fifty people or more, it will be more complicated even if we can cook in a bigger kitchen. We need to cook differently; just multiplying the amount of the ingredients and extending the cooking time won’t do. The Jewel in the Cabbage 54


As an example, consider the preparation of vegetable curry for a large number of people. We need carrots, courgettes, aubergines, garlic, onions, ginger and other spices, things we know from our usual way of cooking curry, we can also guess roughly how much of each ingredient is required. When we have trimmed and cut the vegetables, keep each separately, we can make a better estimation of the portions we can produce. Firstly we have to estimate how many servings the heap of carrots would provide if we were to cook a dish with carrot as the only ingredient. In the same way we estimate the servings obtainable from other heaps of vegetable. We can then add the portions together and adjust our initial guess if necessary. We have to bear in mind that the vegetables will shrink, but this will be compensated for by the added liquid and other ingredients, during the cooking process. It will take a long time to cook a large amount. To prevent the vegetables from becoming mushy, we have to cook them separately. This will also shorten the cooking time as we can fry different vegetables on separate gas rings simultaneously. We can start preparing the curry base using the onions, garlic etc., at the same time too. The vegetables need to be slightly undercooked considering that they are to be finished as a whole. At the end we have to put all the parts together in a large pot and cook them until ready. Another way of cooking the right amount of a stew-like dish is by calculating the volume. If a person needs a serving of 150 ml, then for 50 people we’ll need 7.5 litres, of course we’ll need more if we make allowance for second helpings. Before we start cooking, we The Jewel in the Cabbage 55


can fill our cooking pot with water just to see what 7.5 litres looks like in the pot. We can then mark the surface level or measure its distance from the rim as an indicator for the desired quantity.

Dealing with dietary requirements In a group of twenty, it is likely that there will be a person who has to avoid certain ingredients, such as wheat, dairy products or particular spices. For someone who isn’t used to catering for a large number, having to take an extra precaution, can be stressful. I’ll give you three approaches to deal with this challenge. i) Plan a menu, which doesn’t need any of the problematic ingredients. In theory, this would be the easiest solution, but it can be difficult if we have to avoid common ingredient such as onions. It may also mean that we have to sacrifice the opportunity of using strawberries, as another example, when they at their best just because of one person. ii) Plan two different menus to fulfil two different requirements. This is easier because the choice is larger, however it needs more time and equipment/facilities to prepare two separate meals. iii)The combination of the previous approaches; firstly prepare the common base with ingredients permissible for all and then supplement it with other ingredients to make different meals as required. As an illustration of the last approach, we are going to cook a Dutch style green split pea soup, which uses celeriac and black pepper as ingredients. But one of our guests can’t eat celeriac and another one can’t eat black pepper. The Jewel in the Cabbage 56


Except for the celeriac and the black pepper, we can make the soup in the usual way, i.e. simmering the split pea with onion, leeks, carrots, potato, thyme, bay leaves and salt. Cook the celeriac separately. When the soup is done, take two portions, to make one portion without celeriac and the other portion without black pepper. For everybody else add the cooked celeriac and season it with pepper to taste. For one of the guest, you could replace the missing celeriac with mushroom for example and for the other replace the black pepper with a herb or another spice. If none of the three approaches can help alleviate your worry, you can still ask someone else to prepare or buy the special meal, or you can even explain and request the person concerned to provide her or his own food. Acknowledging our limitations can reduce pressure and anxiety.

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CHAPTER 11

Blueprints from Starter to Sweet The previous chapter is to familiarise ourselves with the technical aspects of cooking, such as heating processes, planning, time and quantity management. This chapter deals with the way we prepare the parts of a meal, such as soups, salads, sauces etc. There are recipes that can lift one’s cooking up to a dazzling level but leave one perplexed and helpless without them. It is like reaching a mountain’s top by using a cable railway. The guidelines in this chapter are more like instructions for hill walking and climbing. They are to help you to find your own way and to make your own discoveries in the culinary landscape. The blueprints, the cooking procedures presented here, do not specify ingredients and quantities rigidly. We have to chose the herbs or spices and the cooking time according to the need of each occasion. Being aware of what is needed and adjusting the process to achieve our goal is essential for learning. The procedures selected here are from various cooking traditions.

Grains, pasta, potato and pastry The basic preparation of staple foods is simple and straight forward. In hunger no one can afford to wait for elaborate procedures. You can cook rice or pasta by boiling it in water and drain it as soon as it is ready. To cook pasta you need a lot of water to facilitate The Jewel in the Cabbage 58


stirring and moving the pieces, to prevent them from sticking to each other. However, cooking rice or other grains like millet, buckwheat and quinoa, with surplus of water and draining it afterward, will dilute the taste and reduce the nutritive value. So, try to cook rice in a covered pot, with water just enough to be completely absorbed when it is done. The instruction provided on the packaging, usually with water about twice of the amount of rice, is good enough, but you can adjust the quantity of water to get moister or dryer rice according to your preference. Pilaf, risotto or paella. This is a rich rice dish, prepared with vegetables and other ingredients. It can be served as a meal on its own. To bring the taste out, you need to fry onion, garlic and/or other ingredients lightly, before you add the rice grains. Fry the mixture with rice for another minute or so and add boiling water or stock. Estimate the quantity of the water as for plain rice, or less if the other ingredients contain a lot of moisture. Cover the pot and cook on a low fire, stir occasionally and add more boiling liquid if needed. The Indian, Italian or Spanish variant differ from each other due to their specific herbs or spices. You can treat other grains in a similar way too. Potato is a miracle, it responds well to all cooking treatment, from the most primitive bonfire method to microwave cooking, from simple boiling to deep frying in a wire mould to create bird’s nest like casings. For change, here is an alternative, a way of preparing potato “pan cakes�. Grate the potatoes and put a portion in a hot frying pan, spread it with a spatula into a pan cake form. You need just enough The Jewel in the Cabbage 59


oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Fry until it turns golden and drain it on absorbent paper. An average size baking potato is needed to make a portion. Bread We don’t need a bread machine to make bread. Kneading the dough, forming or rolling it out with our hands to make pizza base or buns, nurtures our sense of touch and connects us intimately with cooking. The basic ingredients of bread dough are flour ( preferably strong flour, white or wholemeal), yeast ( fast action dried yeast in sachet is the easiest to get and to work with) and warm water. Salt and oil in small quantities are also usually added to the mixture. Traditional French bread, for example, is fat-free but it needs to be eaten fresh. To make a large loaf of about 1 Kg: Mix 800 g flour and 1 sachet of dried yeast in a large bowl add salt and oil if needed. Mix all the ingredients together. Add ca. 1/2 L warm water, mix it to make a sticky ball and knead it on floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes into a soft elastic dough. Shape it and place into the tin, cover it and leave it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. Bake it in a hot oven ca. 200 C for about 45 minutes. We can design the taste, the texture and the shape of our bread, by adjusting the ingredients for the dough and forming it appropriately. Why don’t you try to make beautifully green or orange coloured bread by partially substituting the warm water for the dough by spinach or pumpkin purÊe. Part of the flour can be substituted with rye or other flour. For sweets, besides sugar you can add cinnamon, raisins, nuts, banana or whatever you fancy. The Jewel in the Cabbage 60


Shortcrust pastry As bread dough, this pastry is versatile and easy to make. It can be used as the base for a quiche, a pie or as pasty cases. Its basic ingredients are flour and cold margarine. We need twice as much flour as margarine in weight. Put the flour in a bowl, add the margarine and start cutting the margarine with two knives, continue cutting until the mixture becomes a heap of crumble, add a pinch of salt if desired. Sprinkle a little with cold water, just enough to help the crumble to stay together when we press it to form a ball. Avoid kneading the mixture, or it will become a dough and the crust will be hard during the baking. With a food processor and its cutting blades we can do this operation in a few seconds.

Soup All sorts of soups, clear, smooth or with soft bits in, can be consumed with ease. Eating soup soothes and relaxes us. Soup is a flexible dish, it can accommodate luxuries or very strict diets, it can fulfil refined or simple taste and it can be served throughout the day. Although soup is a foolproof dish, to make an excellent one, some imagination and creativity are indispensable. The very,very basic way to make soup is to put water and the rest of the ingredients in a pot and bring it to boil and let it simmer till done. Surprisingly, even that isn’t basic enough, because people still can make soups like Gazpacho without any cooking at all. To make the soup more interesting you could fry some of the ingredients before you add the water or stock. For a velvety thick soup, you have to add and mix flour into the fried ingredients before you add the liquid, about a tablespoon full The Jewel in the Cabbage 61


is enough for four portions. Alternatively you can include root vegetables or ‘floury’ vegetables such as garden peas and cauliflower as the ingredients. You have to liquidize the soup at the end of the process. Beans are excellent for soups, but if you use dried beans, soak and cook them before hand. Liquidizing some of the cooked beans will thicken the soup too. Adding some bouillon powder or yeast extract to our soup, will give it “body”, will make it tasteless watery. The soup will become richer if we add fat in the form of coconut cream or tahini. Try a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs, toasted nut flakes or seeds as garnish.

Sauces Sauce with its power to transform ordinary fare into a culinary highlight used to be considered as a magic concoction. The fame of traditional French cooking was based on its extensive range of sauces. Even now, the vast assortment of ready-made sauces available on the market, suggests that we still believe in their power. Unfortunately the magic wears off when it is mass produced or when we use the same one too frequently. So we need to create our own sauce, our magic, purposefully for each occasion. Here we are going to look at some basic sauces as examples: Tomato Sauce This sauce is widely used, beyond the boundary of pizza or pasta dishes. Enriched and concentrated it can be served as The Jewel in the Cabbage 62


spreads and dips. It is also readily to be transformed into soups or as an important part of stews. The ingredients of basic tomato sauce are; chopped sun ripe tomatoes, fresh or tinned, olive oil, chopped garlic and onions, thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Fry the garlic and onion in the olive oil and add the rest of the ingredients. It needs simmering for about 30 minutes to develop its taste and to get rid of some of its acidity. White sauce Traditional white sauce is made with flour, butter and milk. It is popular in non vegan cooking due to its creamy texture and cheesy taste. The vegan version can be made with flour, olive oil or other fat and soya milk, this creamy sauce can carry the flavour of garlic or other condiments efficiently. It mixes well with steamed and boiled vegetables. We can make an au gratin dish by putting a layer of white sauce over the prepared ingredients and topping it with bread crumbs or sesame seeds. It will turn golden under the grill or in the oven. Here is the procedure to make the basic white sauce. To make about 1/2 litre of sauce; heat up 50 ml of olive oil in a saucepan, add 50 gram of flour, stir the mixture until it bubbles, add a pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and 1/2 litre of soya milk. Keep stirring and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes till the flour is cooked. The sauce will have a nutty taste and a light brown colour if you fry the flour a little bit longer. The sauce thickness can be adjusted by changing the amount either of the flour or the liquid. To give it a garlicky taste, you can fry chopped garlic before adding the flour. Salt can be replaced by stock powder and you can add mustard paste or other condiments to the sauce. With less oil, you can still The Jewel in the Cabbage 63


make white sauce but you’ll need a blender to eliminate the lumpy flour bits. Nut and seed based sauces These sauces are substantial due to the protein and fat content. Of course you can just add peanut butter, coconut cream or tahini as it is to your prepared food, but try the spicy Indonesian gado-gado sauce below. This sauce is usually served with steamed vegetables or uncooked vegetables like sliced cucumber/ tomato or bean sprouts. It is also good for dips. As a barbecue sauce it is known as satay sauce. Gado-gado sauce With freshly roasted and crushed peanuts you can make a crisp sauce, but short of these, crunchy peanut butter is also o.k. To make 0.5 litre of sauce you’ll need about 125 gr. of peanut butter. Other ingredients are; 1 clove of garlic, 1 medium size onion, about 1 cm of fresh ginger and 1 green or red chilli, you need to chop each of these finely. Further you need a half teaspoonful each of ground cumin and coriander, about 125 ml coconut cream, half of lemon or lime, some salt, oil and soya sauce. In a sauce pan fry the chopped garlic, onion, chilli and ginger for a couple of minutes until the onion becomes soft, add cumin and coriander, fry further for another couple of minutes. Turn the heat down and add peanut butter, coconut cream, lemon juice, one or two tablespoons of soya sauce and a cup of water, stir the mixture to make it smooth. Keep stirring and bring the sauce to boil. Add water if the sauce is too thick, and adjust the taste with more lemon juice, spices or salt as you wish. Mayonnaise This sauce is to be served cold or at room temperature, it can be used as a salad dressing, as a dip or as a component for sandwich filling. Traditionally it has egg yolk as an The Jewel in the Cabbage 64


ingredient, but here is a vegan version. Being home- made we can assure that it is free from artificial flavouring, thickening agents or colourant too. Its basic ingredients are soya milk, vinegar or lemon juice and oil. Put the soya milk in a jug, add a dash of vinegar or lemon to curdle the milk, add salt and other ingredients of your choice such as garlic, herbs or mustard. To make it you have to whisk it vigorously or to use a blender. Start whisking or blending and add the oil gradually until the mixture coagulates and reaches the desirable consistency. It needs about three times as much oil as soya milk to make a thick and creamy sauce, so for a trial, 100 ml of soya milk will be enough. If you want to reduce its fat proportion without making it too runny, you have to add liquidized fine textured tofu, low fat purĂŠe or finely chopped pickled vegetables.

Stir-fry When we don’t have much time to cook but fancy a dish with a zest, stir-fry is the answer. The efficiency of the preparation is reflected in its vitality. Stir-frying is a quick way of cooking over a high heat with little oil. It is as simple as the word suggests, but you still need to pick up the knack of frying various vegetables to release their aroma without burning or overcooking. Experimentation will give you the chance to know their cooking time. You have to manage that the different ingredients get cooked perfectly at the same time. Try one or the combination of the following options. - cut harder vegetables into smaller pieces than softer ones. - start frying with the hardest vegetable and add the softer ones in turn. The Jewel in the Cabbage 65


- fry the vegetables in batches according to their cooking time and add them together at the end. Another practical point, if you want to include a sauce in the stir-fry you have to add it after the frying is done, cooking the ingredients in the sauce will change your stir-fry into a stew. Here is an example of how to make a sauce for a Chinese style stirfry; fry chopped onion, garlic and ginger, add small amount of soy sauce and tomato purĂŠe, a dash of sesame seed oil and finally add about a teaspoonful corn flour mixed with a small cup of water. The sauce will thicken and be ready as soon as it boils.

Stew A stew is a homely dish, a thing that we can prepare between other housekeeping activities. While it cooks slowly and steadily, its aroma pervades the place invoking sensations of warmth and ease. We prepare a stew by simmering the ingredients in a sauce, which can be either made during the same cooking process or made separately beforehand. Let us look at the preparation of a vegetable curry as an example of the former and at the preparation of ratatouille as an example of the latter. Vegetable curry Basic curry ingredients are garlic, onion, fresh ginger, chilli, coriander, cumin and mustard seeds and ground turmeric. To discover your own curry you can add one or more ingredients such as; curry leaves, cardamom, galangal, lemon grass, lemon rind, coconut cream, tomato purÊe and coriander leaves. Most vegetables can be used for curry, but for the sake of the quality and to keep our curry distinct, don’t blur the intricate taste with too many varieties of vegetables. The Jewel in the Cabbage 66


Cooking procedure. Heat up a small quantity of oil in a pot to pop cumin and mustard seeds, the oil needs to be very hot. Add chopped garlic and chilli, fry them till they become slightly brown, add chopped onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the rest of the spices and if you use hard vegetables like carrots, add this too, turn the fire down, add some water and let the pot simmer for a while. If you use a softer vegetable add it now, the same with coconut cream, continue simmering till the stew is ready. Check and adjust the seasoning and garnish it with chopped coriander leaves. Ratatouille is a stew of aubergine, pepper and courgette in tomato sauce. Prepare the sauce as indicated earlier in this chapter. The aubergines need to be sliced or cubed and sprinkled with salt to extract some of the unpleasant sap. The process will take at least 20 minutes, so start with this as soon as possible. Meanwhile slice the peppers and courgettes and fry them lightly in olive oil. Rinse and drain the aubergine pieces and fry these until they become soft. Most of the vegetables are acceptable or even preferable when they are slightly under cooked, but not so for aubergine. Finish the cooking by simmering the vegetable pieces in the tomato sauce.

Eggless egg dishes I remember a vegetarian who said that he avoided eating any living thing that would run away from the threat of being killed, so he was at ease with eating vegetables, fruit and eggs. But if you happen to be like him, you don’t need to be shy of enjoying egg less egg dishes, because they are tasty and better than egg dishes as they can be cholesterol-free and more ecologically produced. The Jewel in the Cabbage 67


In the following examples I use tofu as an egg substitute. Tofu is rich in protein, low in fat and easy to process. Egg less egg dishes give me an opportunity to combine two established culinary worlds, the traditional egg dishes from the West and the use of tofu from the East. Here are some examples; Scrambled tofu You need a piece of tofu about 250 g, crumble it with your fingers or chop it into small pieces. Fry some chopped onion and garlic with olive oil in a frying pan, add some herbs like basil or oregano, add the tofu and finally season it with salt and pepper or chilli sauce if you prefer. Don’t fry too long, the tofu pieces should stay moist. You can spread it on toast for example, it will serve three or four portions. Perico is a Venezuelan egg dish, the name means “parrot”, because of its colour. Besides the tofu, you’ll need onion, garlic, tinned peeled tomatoes, about half of a 400 gr. tin for one block/ 250 gr. of tofu. You’ll need also a pinch each of cumin and turmeric, chopped fresh coriander leaves, oil, salt and pepper. Fry the onion and garlic, add the cumin and turmeric. Drain the tomatoes, chop them roughly and add to the frying pan. Chop the tofu into small pieces, add these also to the pan, finally adjust the seasoning and mix the coriander leaves in. Mushroom and spinach “quiche” (for 5 or 6 portions) We will need a quiche dish or a small baking tray (about 20 cm by 20 cm and 2,5 cm deep) to be lined with the shortcrust pastry. Prepare the pastry by using 125 g of margarine and 250 g of flour as indicated a few paragraphs earlier. The Jewel in the Cabbage 68


For the filling; 250 g mushroom, wash and slice or quarter them 250 g chopped spinach, fresh or frozen 1 onion medium size to be chopped finely 1 block (about 250 g) of tofu 2 tbs. of chickpea flour a.k.a. gram flour ground black pepper a pinch of nutmeg salt and/or vegetarian bouillon powder 2 tbs. oil Fry the onion in a cooking pot until soft, add the mushrooms and add the spinach. Just cook until the spinach and mushroom pieces reduce some of the liquid. In a blender liquidize the tofu, add the gram flour and add the liquid from the fried vegetables, add some water if necessary to make the mixture like a thickish porridge. Add the mixture to the cooking pot and combine it with the pieces of the vegetables. Add the pepper, nutmeg, salt/bouillon powder to your taste. Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin. Line the quiche dish with the pastry, add the filling and spread it evenly. Put the dish in a preheated oven with medium setting for about 45 minutes. The tofu and gram flour mixture will solidify a little during the baking making a firm but moist “quiche�.

Salad Salad is a model of culinary freshness, it perks us up, its taste and its crisp texture refresh our appetite, its colourful ingredients revive The Jewel in the Cabbage 69


the eyes and it is usually served cold too. The uncomplicated way of preparation combined with a mind that is open to new possibilities ensure the salad freshness. The very name “salad” betrays its origin, it is derived from the word salar, which means to season with salt. To keep the salad fresh, not wilted, it is very important that the seasoning, the salad dressing should be light. It is just to harmonise and unify diverse ingredients without smothering their character. To dress is an art of revealing and concealing, even for a salad. It is to make the salad more attractive. Let us look at the salad dressing’s basic components. Salt stimulates the production of our saliva, making us more sensitive to subtle taste. It can also mask bitterness and acidity. Oil softens stark contrast of taste, it lubricates and makes chewing easy. Lemon juice or aromatic vinegar enhances salad freshness. Try and discover for yourself the effect of various herbs and spices. The dressing can be liquid, creamy or emulsion like mayonnaise. The great freedom we have in composing salad, makes it an ideal dish to enliven our menu with the appropriate colours and texture.

Mysterious bites Occasionally we want to be pleasantly surprised. We are curious about things concealed, especially when they are beautifully wrapped. A shepherd’s pie, for example, although familiar holds under its golden crust a secret. There is no recipe for a surprise, except avoiding the standard and surpassing the average. Why can’t we try to make the shepherd’s pie base green with spinach or yellow with a curry taste? The Jewel in the Cabbage 70


The real joy of eating pie or pasty is to discover a matching taste to its attractive appearance. So, forget any old leftovers, unless you can transform them into something delicious first. As well as looking good, pie casing or wrap needs to be firm enough to hold the stuffing together and to give an extra texture. As a casing we can use puff, filo or shortcrust pastry or even bread dough. Vegetables like peppers, cored courgettes or cabbage leaves can also serve this purpose. Obviously vegetable purée, such as mashed potato, although it can serve as a crunchy pie’s topping, needs a mould to hold it together. The filling, on the contrary, doesn’t need to look brilliant on its own, it can be soft, crumbly or even runny. It is an irony that a confined stuff is freer to behave. However, a stronger tasting filling will give these snacks more character. A stew can be use as pie filling, a stir-fry is ready to fill pasty but we can also prepare a simpler filling such as chopped olives, fried mushrooms, nuts, spiced up beans or tofu.

Dangerous food I avoided as much as possible writing recipes in this book because I don’t believe that readymade recipes will help us to understand the basic principles of cooking. But life is full of inconsistencies. In the following pages you will find quick-fix tips and recipes. Worse still, it is about how to make tempting but unhealthy food. Unhealthy if you eat it too often. It is about fritters, cream and cakes. The crucial step in learning to cook is to go into the kitchen. The fritters and cream are not only delicious and seductive but also easy The Jewel in the Cabbage 71


to make. They might lower your kitchen threshold and once you are there enjoying your successes, your courage will grow. Fritters batter The main ingredient is chick pea flour, also known as gram flour, you can find it in Indian shops or large supermarkets. It is almost ready for use, you need only to whisk/blend it with water. The batter is prolific, it gives a crispy coating for deep-fried vegetables. It also binds a vegetable mix together, such as sliced onion and mushroom, to make flat and round fritter pieces known as bhajis or tempuras. The batter can also be used for preparing sweets such as apple or banana fritters. As well as water we need to add salt or sugar and herb or spices to the chick pea flour according to our purpose. The batter should be thick enough to give a spoon a good coating after being dipped in it. To make the fritters crisp, the frying oil needs to be very hot. Soya cream This cream is like the vegan mayonnaise described earlier but here we use sweetener instead of salt and we can add vanilla or other flavouring. The basic ingredients are soya milk and sunflower oil. To make ca. 1/2 l of cream; put 125 ml of soya milk in a jug, add a tablespoon of concentrated apple juice which will curdle the soya milk. Add other flavouring if needed. Start whisking and add the sunflower oil in a gradual trickle. The curdled soya milk will absorb the oil to form an emulsion, which will thicken as we add more oil. Stop the process as soon as the cream reaches the desirable thickness. With a blender we can make it in seconds. If we use sugar or concentrated juices with little acidity, we need to curdle the soya milk with a dash of lemon juice or vinegar before whisking. We can use almond oil or other fancy oil, but avoid strong The Jewel in the Cabbage 72


flavoured oil such as olive oil for a delicate cream, bear this also in mind if you decide to use aromatic vinegar.

Cakes Why do we need a recipe to learn to make a cake? Cake making differs from the straightforward way of preparing soup, stew or stir-fry. Here we cannot follow or adjust our handling during the cooking process. Once we put our cake mix in the oven we can only hope that it will turn out all right. We can still design our own cake later by using the cake we made as a starting point, we can adjust the quantities of its ingredients to our taste. Limit the changes to one or two ingredients to begin with, otherwise we’ll lose track of the effects of our attempt. As an experiment we can substitute some of the ingredients too. Carrot cake This is one of my favourite vegan cakes. If you are used to making an ordinary cake, this cake will challenge your idea of cake. It doesn’t contain any eggs or butter and it contains vinegar! Nevertheless it is delicious, so some magic must be involved in the process. You’ll need a spring form cake tin. Line it with grease proof paper. Ingredients; 400 g peeled carrots 400 g wholemeal flour 225 g sugar 2 tsp bicarb soda 2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground nutmeg 1 tsp ground cardamom

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100 g raisins 250 ml soya milk 150 ml sunflower oil 2 Tbs. vinegar Grate the carrots. To make them soft, put these in a cooking pot, sprinkle with a little bit of oil and water, cover the pot and put it on a low fire for about five minutes. Sift the bicarb and the ground spices into a large bowl, add the flour and the sugar and mix these dry ingredients evenly. Put all the liquid ingredients in a jug, mix them together. Add the soft grated carrot to the dry mixture and gradually stir in the liquid ingredients to make a smooth paste. Pour this into the lined spring form and bake it in a preheated oven with medium setting for about 50 minutes. If you want to try to make a banana cake from this recipe by replacing the grated carrot with mashed banana, bear in mind that banana has more sugar and moisture content than carrot. Pumpkin pie Use a quiche dish and line it with the shortcrust pastry in the same way as for a quiche. For the filling; 500 g of pumpkin or butter nut squash, peeled and diced 100 g of margarine 100 g of sugar grated rind of half of a lemon 1 tsp of ground cinnamon 200 g of ground almonds

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Put all the ingredients except the ground almonds in a cooking pot, add some water, about 50 ml, just to prevent burning. Simmer it and cover the pot until the pumpkin becomes soft and disintegrated. If the mixture is too liquid, remove the lid to evaporate the water, it needs to be like a paste. Cool it down a little and mix the ground almonds in. Fill the lined dish with the mixture and bake it in preheated oven, medium heat for 50 minutes. Leave it to cool and taste it. Enjoy it, but keep the mind open to evaluate your work. Adjust your pie next time if it is needed. If it is not firm enough for example you can make the paste drier, either by evaporating it longer or by adding more ground almonds or even flour. You can add or reduce the sugar or other flavourings too. This chapter and the previous one deal with cooking processes and procedures, showing us the mechanics of cooking and how to prepare various elements of a meal. The next three chapters are suggestions for expanding our repertoire.

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CHAPTER 12

Ingredients For Change Even if your mother didn't take you to the market when you were a child, the opportunity to be enchanted by food is still there, even now. However visiting the familiar markets is unlikely to mystify you. For the sake of discovery you could explore something unknown like ethnic food stores. Following the noodle thread As an example I would like to take you to a Chinese food store. Don't be deterred by strange things you'll find there such as dried lotus leaves, desiccated shrimps or ‘thousand year’ ducks eggs. Look at the varieties of fresh vegetables, roots, aromatic leaves and exotic fruit. Notice also the ranges of tofu, rice and other enigmatic colourful jars, tins and packets of food. All this stuff and ordinary things like flour, oil and onions are set out seemingly at random as if specially to sharpen your attention. I wasn't bewildered as a kid in that chaotic Indonesian market, but my mother was there. So to encourage your first visit and to prevent you from disorientation, here is a pointer in the form of a task: buy ingredients for a simple but delicious noodle soup. What I have in mind is a substantial soup to be served on its own for a lunch, a dinner or even as breakfast, which is popular in the Far East. Try to find : -a packet of fresh or dried noodles, not that ubiquitous flavoured The Jewel in the Cabbage 76


instant noodles with hardly anything except taste enhancer, just plain noodles. -a packet of fresh tofu. -a packet of dried tofu, in the form of sticks. You need to cut the sticks into short pieces and discard the hard bits. Soak the pieces in hot water for 20 minutes. The texture is like that of chicken meat. -a packet of dried Chinese mushrooms; their caps are dark and the flavour is much stronger than ordinary mushrooms. They need soaking in hot water for about 30 minutes. -a small amount of sesame oil. It is for flavouring rather than for frying. -a small bunch of Chinese greens, a variety from the Brassica family, known as pak choi. -a small bunch of coriander leaves or spring onions. Of course you can find the more common ingredients like ginger, garlic and soya sauce too. Hopefully the description of these ingredients is intriguing enough for you to want to discover, to experiment with and to taste the things themselves. If you have never had Chinese noodle soup before, the quantities and the procedure given below might give you some idea. To make two portions of soup, you’ll need about 100 g of dried noodles, 2 or 3 pieces of dried mushrooms, 1/4 packet of dried tofu (ca. 50 g). A table spoon of chopped onion, a clove of garlic, a small piece of fresh ginger, 100 g of cubed fresh tofu, a handful of shredded Chinese greens, a table spoon of cooking oil, a dash of sesame oil, a dash of soya sauce, salt or bouillon powder, black pepper and coriander leaves for garnish. Cook the noodle in boiling water, drain and leave it aside. Prepare The Jewel in the Cabbage 77


the dried tofu and mushrooms as indicated. The stalks of the mushrooms are tough, so use the caps only; cut them into thin slices. Fry chopped garlic and onion in cooking oil, add finely chopped ginger, add 2 cups of water. Bring it to boil, add the prepared dried tofu and mushrooms, add the fresh tofu, the greens, add salt (or bouillon powder), pepper, a dash of sesame oil and soya sauce. Bring it back to boil and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the cooked noodle and adjust the seasoning. Serve it hot in two bowls and sprinkle the coriander leaves on the top. Chilli sauce goes well with this soup. If you are familiar with the Chinese shop already, why don't you give an Indian supermarket a try, a gateway to another rich cooking tradition, another world with different colours and scents. However, if order is more appealing to your imagination than labyrinthine shops, South European outdoor markets or market halls, can help you. I have good memories of them in France, Spain and Italy. They looked like a large mosaic, fruit and vegetables were arranged neatly revealing their vivid colours and textures. If you happen to be in one of these markets, buy some fruit or vegetables just because of their beauty or unfamiliarity. Ask the seller for some advice if needed or just prepare them according to your intuition and fantasy.

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CHAPTER 13

Lasagne beyond the Pigeon Hole We don’t achieve the mastery of the culinary art by reproducing stereotypical dishes, but by being able to modify and multiply them with new variants. Lasagne, for example, doesn't have to be firm and garlicky, neither creamy nor saturated with tomato sauce. You can have it as you wish, tailor-made just to fit you! Let us explore the range of budding lasagne hidden in this multilayer dish. Basically lasagne consists of three components; lasagne sheets, tomato sauce and white sauce. Unless you make the sheets yourself, which is rather elaborate, you don't have much control over their quality, so buy your favourite brand! Everything else is in your hands. Ask yourself how much lasagne you want to eat. A piece consisting of three single sheets interspersed with layers of white and tomato sauce, will make a good portion. Lasagne is not meant to be made for one portion, probably not to be eaten alone either, it is not practical. It takes almost as much time and energy to make one or four portions and it is difficult to find a one person lasagne dish too. Why don't you invite a friend or two who are eager to participate in your culinary exploration for dinner, maybe even to cook together. You might have to compromise your taste, but sharing activity with friends is a joy and who knows, their taste might be better than yours. The Jewel in the Cabbage 79


Let us continue with our estimation, for one portion of lasagne, as well as the three sheets you have to estimate how much sauce will be needed; probably half a mug of tomato sauce and half a mug of white sauce. So, for four portions of lasagne we need two mugs of each sauce. Tinned peeled tomatoes are more suitable for making sauce because the fresh ones we can get in Britain usually lack the taste or colour of the Italian tomatoes. For the quantity we need, open two of 400 g tin, drain and liquidize the tomatoes. Prepare the sauce as indicated on page(xx) but to make the lasagne a complete meal you need to add some protein source. Traditionally lasagne contains mince meat. For vegetarians, you can use one of the following alternatives; finely chopped tofu, cooked lentils, quorn mince or boiled tvp mince. When you decide on the quantity of ingredients, bear in mind that the lasagne sheets will absorb some of the liquid. To make two mugs of the white sauce you need margarine (or olive oil) and flour in equal weights. To give you some idea, say 50 gram each. Further you need milk, salt and some herbs or spices. A simple way of preparing it is as follows: melt the margarine in a cooking pot, add the flour, leave the mix to fry a little until it becomes bubbly, add a pinch of nutmeg and black pepper, finally whisk the mixture and add milk gradually until you get a sauce with the right thickness and free of lumps. Add salt if you wish. Leave the sauce to simmer for about five minutes. For the white sauce alone, if we consider two alternatives for each ingredient, like the choice between margarine or olive oil, white flour or wholemeal, frying the mix ( also known as roux) lightly or The Jewel in the Cabbage 80


until it becomes slightly brown, cow’s milk or soya milk, with or without nutmeg, pepper or no pepper, salt or bouillon powder, you will have more than a hundred variations to choose from. The possibilities are almost inexhaustible: you can add spinach or cheese or its vegan substitute, mustard or whatever you prefer to adjust the sauce to your taste. Of course, in the same way there are abundant varieties of tomato sauce to choose too. Adhering to a single recipe will deprive you of discovering new varieties, and are you going to let yourself forgo the lasagne just because of the lack of a particular herb? Let us proceed with the cooking. Switch the oven on and set it at medium heat, about 180 centigrade. Now you can start to assemble the lasagne, you need an oven proof lasagne dish about 5 cm deep, preferably a rectangular one. Put half of the tomato sauce at the bottom of the tray and spread it evenly, cover this with a single layer of lasagne sheets without overlapping each other, maybe you'll need to break some to fit the edges. Spread half of the white sauce over the lasagne sheets and cover the white sauce with more sheets as before, continue with spreading the rest of the tomato sauce, another layer of lasagne sheets and finally the rest of the white sauce on the top. You could improve this basic lasagne by adding grated cheese or its vegan alternative or grated tofu mixed with some oil and stock powder as the topping. Put the assembled lasagne in the oven until the lasagne sheets become soft and the topping becomes golden. Without evaluation there will be no mastery. Are you happy with your lasagne? You’re lucky if you are, but if you’re not, you can see The Jewel in the Cabbage 81


it as an experiment and you have to pinpoint the sources of your dissatisfaction. To improve your next lasagne is usually straightforward, it is a matter of reducing salt if it is too salty and adding liquid if it is too dry. If one sticks to one's observations, how can cooking be difficult? Of course you have to start with the gravest problem, if the lasagne is burnt, any speculation whether it might be too peppery for example, is beside the point. Experimentation needs measurements, or at least reliable estimations as points of reference, so, numbers can be useful to help you to establish your knowledge. Don't fix the numbers too rigidly though, or your lasagne will lose its vitality

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CHAPTER 14

The Thousand Faces Of Cabbage “ Put your awakened mind to work, making a constant effort to serve meals full of variety that are appropriate to the need and the occasion...” Regulations for Zen Monasteries . Even in the monastery where people live with simplicity they try to ensure the food is served well. Life is not for self punishment nor for indulgence. We do have to eat but we do not have to eat bad or boring food. Maybe we can’t afford or we don’t want to spend money on expensive ingredients. We need to remember that cheap things are not necessarily inferior, they are cheap only because they are in great supply or are easily available. Cabbage is one of the most common vegetables and is often underrated. To bring about a new appreciation of it, let us look at the many possibilities of preparing cabbage, on its own or in conjunction with other easily available ingredients. To begin with, there are various types of cabbage; each possesses a different texture, smell and shade of colour. If we want to use a particular cabbage, we need to know its characteristics. Consider for example, how the white cabbage with its rather strong taste and crispy texture matches the creaminess of mayonnaise and the smell of fresh onion when we make coleslaw. With the deep green of savoy cabbage or the purple of the "red" cabbage we can effectively change the colour composition of our meal. The Jewel in the Cabbage 83


Instead of asking which soups or salads we can make with cabbage, we are going to look at using the features of different cabbages. Its large leaves for instance, are suitable to wrap and hold crumbly mixtures. Bearing in mind this property, we can design various snacks, side and main dishes, that can be cooked under the grill, in the oven, as a casserole or in a steamer. We can improve the flexibility of the leaves by soaking them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. As an illustration, to make a succulent side dish we can steam small packets of cabbage leaves stuffed with cooked rice, grated cheese or smoked tofu and herbs. We can grill them too, but we need to brush them with oil and secure the wrapping with cocktail sticks. As a casserole we can chose more substantial fillings like beans and nuts and also we can use more sturdy cabbage leaves. Covering them with sauce will improve the taste and the cooking process. As well as using cabbage leaves as wrappers, we can use them as filling for pasties or pies. For pasties, we need to cut them into small strips and fry lightly to develop a nutty taste. Adding other vegetables or finely cut tofu, and some herbs or spices, we'll have spring roll or samosa stuffing. Chopped cabbage makes a good ingredient for vegetarian shepherd's pie. Shredded savoy cabbage leaves are firm enough for deep frying, either straight away which will turn them dark green and very crispy like fried seaweed , or with a batter to make fritters with moist cores. On the other hand, Chinese cabbage has tender and light green leaves, an excellent ingredient for a refreshing salad. Combine peeled orange segments and toasted almond flakes to bring the colours more alive and enrich the texture. The Jewel in the Cabbage 84


Red cabbage, because of its distinctive colour and its milder taste, is suitable for making an attractive fruity side dish if we add sweet smelling spices like cloves or cinnamon. We can stew the cabbage with a small amount of sliced apples to make a good complement for a roasted dish. Sprinkling a dash of vinegar will brighten the colour of the red cabbage. One of my favourite cabbage dishes and easiest to prepare, is sautĂŠed cabbage almost on its own with just a little bit of garlic, salt and seeds like fennel or herbs such as dill. For those who really enjoy the taste of cabbage, sauerkraut presents an amplified aroma. It can be used to add an interesting flavour to various dishes like soups, salads or even mashed potatoes. Because of its acidity, it is a good complement for greasy fried food. We can add cabbage into rice dishes such as risotto, paella or fried rice and it is also good for noodle dishes. All types of cabbage lend themselves to stir frying or soup making, because with these flexible cooking processes we can incorporate cabbages with different texture at different time. By watching attentively from every side we allow the cabbage to reveal its many faces and we also notice that behind the cabbage, scores of other vegetables are waiting to be considered in the same way.

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CHAPTER 15

Nurturing Nature Cooking changes us profoundly To cook well we need to know what to cook, the techniques tell us only how to do it. We need to know both but the first is more difficult to find out. Some traditions prescribe the characteristics of good food, like having six flavours and three qualities, as quoted by Dogen. Here in the West, we are more concerned with its nutritional contents and we also tend to follow the French style of cooking, which avoids the repetition of predominant ingredient at the same meal. However cooking has far reaching consequences, more than what we usually think of. It has shaped us in the last hundred thousand years, not only our social life but also our very body. Eating food that needs cooking requires more organisation and co-operation than eating raw food, which can be consumed wherever one finds it. Cooking and eating together promoted primeval bonding. Cooked food is easier to digest and gives the body more nutritive energy to survive, maybe this is the reason why no culture without any cooking skill has been discovered. Agriculture would not have developed without knowing how to process wheat, rice, potato or other difficult to digest produces. Eating more nutritious food changed our digestive system, it made our gut smaller, compared to other primates, and our brain larger. The Jewel in the Cabbage 86


We are still cooking and eating, and undoubtedly it continues to shape us. Our world with its mighty food-producing and processing businesses is different than the world at the past; the forests are disappearing, the sea and the oceans are overfished, the globe becomes warmer and dirtier. Our body too is different; it is more susceptible to food related illness such as obesity, cancer and heart disease. Can we let our civilisation be doomed by our cooking? To meet the new challenges, we have to re-asses our cooking ideal and resist the alluring products that stealthily harm our body and destroy the earth. This is an arduous task, because we have to change our eating habits and acquire new tastes for good food and also because the vested interests will undermine any efforts that threaten their position. However, with a clear and appealing alternative, a large number of us can shape a better future. No government, or multinational can afford to disregard the choice of billions of people. We can vote directly and compellingly, every day, by buying only wholesome products. The question of what to cook or not to cook, is indeed of utmost importance. A call for compassion ‘Hate is not overcome by hate; by love alone is hate appeased ....... ’ Dhammapada Sooner or later we will realise that some food can cause illness and death, not only to us, the eaters, but also to others who suffer from starvation and pollution due to its production.

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I single out meat and dairy products, firstly because research asserts the correlation of the consumption of meat products with cancer and heart disease, and secondly because it is reported that the livestock sector generates 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport, and it is also a major source of land and water degradation. Meat production has other dark shadows. It is a wasteful process that depletes the world food resources, it uses about three times as much grain or pulses to yield the same amount of nutriment and it pushes the price of the crop up. While hundreds of millions of people suffer from hunger, a large proportion of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chicken. And of course billions of these animals are suffering. They are maltreated, confined, drugged and fed unnaturally to push their meat or egg production. They end their life in a horrible way. To guard our health, to improve the environment and to abolish suffering, we have to co-operate, including with the perpetrators of the harm. The meat industry can change and start producing veggie burgers, for example, if there is less demand for meat products. It won’t happen tomorrow and it won’t start happening before we ourselves change. We need each other for support and inspiration. Any action in the right direction, from just reducing meat consumption, becoming part-time or semi- vegetarian, to becoming a strict vegan, will help erode the meat establishment. Dogmatism will only estrange ordinary people and we cannot bring about significant changes without the majority support.

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The inexhaustible carrot The threat of meat engendered illness and environmental disaster, like a big stick, spurs us onto the vegetarian path. However most of us are not strong enough to stop our meat consumption, not for long, if our rational decision is not supported by our emotions. Fortunately, the vegetarian path is strewn with juicy carrots in the form of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Beauty, the exquisite taste and visually attractive vegetarian food, can give our choice an emotional backing. The appreciation of the beauty of the living animals and of nature, will also call for our feeling of care. It takes time to acquire new taste and new way of seeing, remember that for some, an animal’s ‘beauty’ is only to be found in the butcher’s shop or on the plate. The goodness of being a vegetarian, consists of eating healthy food and harming less animals and the world. To eat is to destroy but vegetarianism gives a brake to our tendency of treating living beings as mere objects, it reminds us that the defenceless animals can suffer and need protection. The joy of having a clear conscience, will help us to stay on the vegetarian course. Without a Truth-seeking attitude, changes for the better are unlikely to happen. More and clearer information about food can strengthen our resolve. It is easy enough to find new recipes, but it is less straightforward to find our way amongst diverse diets. Harder still is to see the pervasive cruelty against animals, because we prefer not to feel upset. We would like to believe, for example, that eating eggs and using dairy products are free from killing, ignoring that half, the male genus of these species, are killed in their early life and the other half follows the same fate as soon as their productivity drops. We will also realise that some vegetarian The Jewel in the Cabbage 89


products are harmful, either in their production or when we consume them. Finding the truth can be uncomfortable, but it is a process of waking up. Vegetarian cooking is a mission amongst the non-vegetarians, nevertheless when we cook our task is not to talk about it, but to cook well. The intention of this book is just that. Cooking a brighter future “A real tradition is not the relic of a past that is irretrievably gone; it is a living force that animates and informs the present........” I. Stravinsky -Poetics of Music. The precariousness of the environment gives our cooking a new turn. Our definition; skilful cooking is preparing desirable food by making use of the available resources, is still applicable, but we have to re-evaluate its terms e.g. desirability and availability. The effects of our cooking reach far beyond the boundaries of our neighbourhood and circle of friends. In this larger context, if we also take Truth, Beauty and Goodness as our guidance, as ‘ a living force that animates and informs’ our cooking, then a new tradition will emerge. A tradition that can inspire and help us to make choices in the many steps of our cooking. As our food becomes more beautiful and tasty, more ethical and beneficial, it turns into an irresistible message for change. To purify the world’s food production by cooking with awareness, will take long a time and it is surely not going to happen without other measures. However we don’t need to be disheartened because every step forward toward Truth, Beauty and Goodness is a reward in itself. Our joy of discovery and sharing our creation will loosen us from the grip of food fads and consumerism. The Jewel in the Cabbage 90


An Invitation to support the Vegan cause This book has been produced and is being sold at the lowest price possible to make it available for many. If you enjoyed reading it, you can treat your friends with a copy. All readers are warmly invited to donate to the Triratna Vegan Project to promote veganism in the wider Buddhist Community and beyond. For more details please visit: www.justgiving.com/triratnavegans

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Acknowledgements This book wouldn’t come into being without the encouragement and assistance of many people. For many years café customers asked me to write about my cooking, but I had to wait until Manjusvara with the “Wolf at the Door” workshop convinced me that everybody could write. The Earth Café gave me the laptop. A dozen of friends, kindly helped me, with limited success, straighten my English. I also, at different stages of the draft, received feedback from Padmakara, Vilasavajra, Anjali, Paul Thung, Vajradevi, Yogaratna, Rosemary Wild, Amritasukha, and Ratnaghosha. They assisted me to weed out errors and cut through the tangles of unclarity. Ratnaghosha also helped me to open new windows on my impenetrable computer screen. Jayaraja took my photograph and Guhyaraja put the cover together. I feel very grateful to all of them. I only hope that I have managed to make good use their generous offering. I’m much indebted to my devoted mother who shared her love for cooking unstintingly, to Vajrayogini who helped me to re-orientate my life and to Venerable Sangharakshita who brought the Buddhist treasury to light and created the Triratna Buddhist Order, the context for practising the Dharma in the modern world. And finally, this second edition is published thanks to kind support from Lokabandhu.

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The Jewel In The Cabbage by Vimalabandhu  

Here's a new version of the much-loved book 'The Jewel in the Cabbage' by Vimalabandhu, long-time Buddhist chef. Sub-titled "Cooking with Me...

The Jewel In The Cabbage by Vimalabandhu  

Here's a new version of the much-loved book 'The Jewel in the Cabbage' by Vimalabandhu, long-time Buddhist chef. Sub-titled "Cooking with Me...