The weather has been really wet, windy and miserable these last few days. Not cold, which is odd for this time of year, but filled with the kind of dampness that gets under your skin and into your bones. The air clings to the scent of falling leaves and traces of wood smoke. For days on end, not a single patch of blue in the sky has appeared, not even a single tiny patch of blue. Ironically, it reminds me of when we lived at the Zen Center, in dry, sunny S.L.C. Utah, USA. It felt as if the sky was perennially blue, to the point that I actually began to miss this wild, cloudy weather. But after 15 years, I’m starting to miss it back…a bit of sunshine would not go amiss.
During dawn zazen, I try to imagine what kind of breakfast would work for everyone in the zendo on such a morning, or what kind of lunch might take off the afternoon chill. What appears is a longing for hot, comforting milky cereals with hot cinnamoned fruit; mouth-burning crispy oven bakes; stews with robust, spicy sauces. Yang food. Strong food. Sustenance food.
The fun part of being tenzo is trying to stand in the shoes of others and imagine what they would like to eat, not so much what I would like to eat. (If it were just me, it would probably be buttered toast with marmalade – and apples – all day.) But then again, like most of us, I haven’t chosen to live in a small ramshackle hut on a deserted sand bank, where one wouldn’t experience the joy and solidarity of being able to feed others besides oneself. That’s what life can be about. Sharing joy. Even if it’s just edible.
Until recently, the only affordable dried fruit in our neck of the woods were sultanas and raisins. Now there seems to be more choices as “Super Foods” creep their way onto the local supermarket shelves – yes, even in Uithuizen. What was once a luxury is now a easy to find item. So I’ve started putting dried goji berries, instead of humble raisins, into hot cereals. And it adds a touch of colour to this rather grey, blustery day. This one needs time to cook, so take some time and put your feet up.
170 g (¾ cup) short grain brown rice
100 g (½ cup) amaranth
1 litre (4 cups) water
½ litre (2 cups) almond milk
4 tablespoons dried goji berries
- Rinse the brown rice and drain through a fine mesh sieve. Put the brown rice, amaranth, almond milk, and water in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil over high flame. As soon as it boils, turn down the flame, cover and gently simmer for about 50 minutes, or until it becomes creamy. Stir often as the amaranth has a tendency to cluster on the bottom, especially the last 10 minutes, to prevent sticking.
- If you are short on time, it can be cooked using a pressure cooker. Put the grains, goji berries, and water in the pressure cooker. Lock the lid. Bring the cooker to pressure over a high flame. When the pressure vent seals, and the valve indicates the pressure is reached, turn the flame low and cook for 25-30 minutes. Turn off and let it rest for 15 minutes. Stir from the bottom of the pot to release the amaranth grains which will have clustered there.
- Serve with broken toasted almonds and honey.