When the Tenzo, cook of the Zen tradition, makes his compost, the ancestors smile.
This morning, my breath and fog on the kitchen windows. Outside, the earth is still hibernating. I look at the garden of birds (1) barely emerging from the fog of dreams on which still float a few dreamlike scrolls. It is a small vegetable garden made of about ten lasagne sheets (2) with in its center an arch in which sits the Japanese cherry tree, “the Buddha” of the garden.
Early in the morning, I like to go and rub my nose in the cold. I take the compost bucket that I will gently pour under the mulch. This gesture reminds me of that of the offering to the dead in the ritual of the oryokis where we treasure the cleansing water, which we offer to the garden. An elixir filled with nutrients.
It is through this ritual that I deeply felt that it was the function of the Tenzo, and realized the importance of its place in the community: to nourish life with life, to understand our interdependent links.
The Tenzo in zen is a passer. His practice is to circulate life. It activates the community by awakening the synergies between all the elements that constitute it. In the China of the Tao, we would speak of him as an alchemist. Tenzo in Japanese is written from two Japanese ideograms “ten” and “zo” meaning “to order” and “the place”, in other words the Tenzo has the function of inviting practitioners to sit in their place. But what place are we talking about in this practice?
Becoming Tenzo is a great responsibility, it is offering others the ideal conditions to make them feel the existence that crosses them; it is to make them hear the great news of life which awakens them with each bite and it is above all to provoke the natural desire to become oneself the cook of one's life by feeding the world.
To become Tenzo is to provoke the natural desire to become the cook of your life by feeding the world.
Finding your place as a human is a way of life, find the meaning of food too. Through the practice of cooking in the presence, to do only that, we produce our own emotional compost; from all our worries, our obsessions, our resentments, we produce the soil of our inner peace; to eat simple and varied dishes that alternate flavors and colors, we satiate our hearts and do not add more anger to the world. By sharing our peelings with the earth, we feed it. And above all, we enter into the joy of being deeply human, this inexpressible joy of being able to breathe, eat and live thanks to and for all beings.
Oryoki menu of the week: celebration of renewal
The Lunar New Year celebrates the blooming of the first flowers of the year and with it the renewal of the cycle of life. It is with the arrival of plum blossoms that Japan experiences this off-season from spring to winter, until the blossoming of sakura flowers.
Here is a simplified menu of the traditional O sechi ryôri (the food of the offering) in the white and orange color of the ceremonies. In Zen, the O sechi ryori is offered to our awakened nature to being fully alive (buddha), to life as it is (dharma) and to the community that allows it to be activated (sangha) .
1st bowl: Round white rice (for its whiteness). In the presence, rinse the rice ten times then let it soak. In a volume (dry rice) of water, cook covered until boiling then lower to low heat until complete cooking. Leave to rest for another 10 minutes, still covered.
2nd bowl: Ozoni. Tarot soup and daikon (white radish) cooked in a konbu (seaweed) broth, then seasoned with white miso. Add a few zests of yuzu (Japanese citrus), bergamot or clementine, as desired.
3rd bowl: Persimmon and white radish salad with vinegar. Cut the radish and the persimmon into julienne. Season with cider vinegar and a little sugar. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
And like looking at the beauty of plum blossoms, we look at our food (3):
1-We look at all the effort and energy needed to get this food to us.
2-We reflect on how we honor this nourishment in the daily practice of our lives.
3-We see how the gift of food transforms our minds and soothes our hearts by protecting us from greed and anger.
4-We see how this offering deeply nourishes and heals our body.
5-We contemplate this food that allows us to wake up to life and the joy of sharing it with all beings