The Chef’s Table might appear to be an unusual source of spiritual inspiration. Or so you might think if you’ve not heard of the Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan. I probably won’t ever go to Korea which is a shame because places are what make my memories. I know this because I’ve travelled extensively. I also know that while the destinations are wonderful, it’s the people that add the vitality. I guess she adds more vitality than most.
I’d like to recommend this Netflix program to you because I think it’s about meditation. I think we may be able to achieve serenity from total immersion in the kitchen. Did you ever think that cooking can do that for us? Watch and see if you might agree. It’s a good program so you’ve nothing to loose.
There’s a good background read here in The Guardian from 2016 so I don’t need to repeat it. The key is that ‘She’s clearly amused by a situation which has seen her singled out by a number of leading international chefs – led by Eric Ripert of New York’s vaunted Le Bernardin – as a bona fide gastronomic prophet.’
Jeong Kwan talked of the five senses and being different to what I thought constitutes a sense, these made an impression on me.
She talked about soy with reverence. ‘Soy sauce makes me excited just thinking about it. Every food is recreated by soy sauce. Soybeans, salt, and water, in harmony, through time. It is the basis of seasonings, the foundation. There are sauces aged five years, ten years, aged for one hundred years. These kinds of soy sauces are passed down for generations. They are heirlooms.’
Totally vegan, as you’d expect of a Buddhist, she doesn’t use the pungent flavours of onions, garlics, chives, scallions or leeks. ‘Those five spices are sources of spiritual energy, but too much of that energy will prevent a monk’s spirit from achieving a state of calmness. This is a distraction to meditation.’ Many Buddhists consider these as stimulants for libido and that’s another reason to avoid them.
‘If, as some believe, we’re all headed for a vegan future, could this be cause for celebration?’ asked Jeff Gordinier in the New York Times in 2015.
I think so.
- Netflix’s Chef’s Table (season 3 episode 1) As it says on Netflix, ‘In South Korea, Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan approaches cooking as a spiritual practice. But her meals have left some of the world’s best chefs in awe.’
- Jeong Kwan, the Philosopher Chef by Jeff Gordinier in the New York Times in 2015
- Zen and the art of Korean vegan cooking by Jonathan Thompson in The Guardian 2016.