The monastery hidden up in the mountains, the waltzing foggy air, breathes and greets in delight, offering love and care and sometimes offering it through food, what people happily call the temple food. And the one who excels in doing so is a Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan.
Her simple, soupy, soulful dishes – vegetarian and vegan – lightens and calms both the body and mind. Grown in the monastery’s garden, the vegetables live boisterously.
After planting the seeds, I just watch them grow. They grow in snow, rain, wind and sunlight. When it’s hot they grow in heat. When it’s cold they grow in cold. I make food with these vegetables with a blissful mind. And I eat the vegetables with joy.– Jeong Kwan
Ascetic yet communicating with everyone, delightfully going with the flow and living, simply, Jeong Kwan remembers her mother.
When I felt the love of my mother, I wanted to become like her. I learned the mother’s way from my mother. Preparing a lot of food to share. As a monk, I try to practice such a mind, a mother’s mind. A monk is everyone’s mother, not just to a family, but to the whole community…
My mother granted me the opportunity to enter this temple. Even today, I thank her for her mercifulness and compassion for allowing my pursuit of the freedom.– Jeong Kwan
Her late parents, their memories don’t cripple or sadden her, it’s the endless pond of oneness through which she touches upon these few old glimpses. For she is one with all, one with her actions, her surroundings.
Walking, choosing the Buddha’s way, far away from the rush, close to nature, one feels transported. Jeong Kwan transports at will and doesn’t mind the bustling busy crowd at all.
I want to communicate with everyone through food, so I lecture at the Department of Culinary Arts at Jeonju University … I don’t consider my activities to be teaching. It’s communication.– Jeong Kwan
Here is what she has to say about soy sauce, excitedly she shares –
Every food is recreated by soy sauce. Soy beans, 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 100 years. These kind of soy sauces are passed down for generations, they are heirlooms. If you look into yourself, you see past, present and future. You see that time revolves endlessly….
By looking into myself I see my grandmother, my mother, the elders in the temple and me. As a result, by making soy sauce, I am reliving the wisdom of my ancestors, I am reliving them. It’s not important who or when. What is important is that I am doing it in the present.– Jeong Kwan
The Buddha’s way, the temple food, all mixed with a little bit of soy sauce, whether in throbbing loud city or a challenging quiet corner in the forest, is the recipe to make a humble, fulfilling meal that lets the vital life force within and without work peacefully.
With food we can share and communicate our emotions. It’s the mindset of sharing that is really what you’re eating. There is no difference between cooking and pursuing Buddha’s way. It’s been almost half a century since I entered this way. I did it in pursuit of enlightenment. I am not a chef, I am a monk.– Jeong Kwan
The blogger was inspired by the documentary series ‘Chef’s Table’ that is available on Netflix.
Here’s the trailer –
Meet Jeong Kwan –
Eric Ripert, a renowned chef, visits the temple –
- The Source
- In The Sundarbans
- The Knight’s Missing But The Horse’s Here
- Temple Food
- Walking and, Without Looking for it, Finding Narnia