Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summer schedule, and food

We're officially on summer schedule now, as of Sunday afternoon. For me, it's not all that helpful yet, because the abbots went out of town and I have cat duty. That means I still have to get up early to go down the street to feed the cat. Not a huge hardship, because I usually wake up about 4:30 anyway this time of year. But next week I'll be able to stay in bed and read or get up and putter in my own room or whatever rather than to get up and get dressed and go out right away.

Summer schedule means that the only regular events on the calendar are Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. In addition, we do formal breakfast on Sunday morning (and these days I'm the breakfast cook, so that impacts me a little bit). Other than that, it's just work more or less 9 to 5, and oh, yes, dinners in the evening. I mostly don't cook for those.

I've had a request to write about what food we have here. Other than breakfast (oats, tea, and fruit), I'm not usually involved in the cooking much. I know that at some point I will have to do so, because part of the training is to take on tasks we're not all that comfortable with. I mean, it's not like I can't cook, but cooking for a lot of people with the kind of variety required here is a big challenge. I've always been pretty unconcerned about food, and content to eat much of the same things over and over. But that's not what happens here (other than breakfast, as I mentioned, so I'm very comfortable with that).

Usually there's one person who is designated Tenzo (which means head cook in Japanese). It's an important job, one of the traditional officers of the temple. There's even a fascicle written by the eminent Japanese philosopher Eihei Dogen (considered the founder of Japanese Soto Zen) called "Instructions to the Head Cook" (Tenzokyokun in Japanese) in his collection of writings called the Shobogenzo. At this point, one of the abbots, Gyokuko, is Tenzo. She delegates quite a bit, but oversees everything.

Lunch is usually some combination of soup, salad, bread and/or leftovers. Pretty simple for the few of us around here (many of the lay residents are out at jobs). Often Gyokuko puts that together, but if she's out for some reason in the morning (at the gym or shopping), then one of the other of us does something. I've done that. My standby is ramen soup, which everyone but Domyo likes pretty well. We add tofu and vegies to it to make it really a substantial meal. But I've also managed other things for lunch. There are anywhere from 3-6 of us at lunch most days.

Dinner is another matter. The usual number ranges from 5-10, but sometimes we can have up to about 14. Someone signs up to cook. Sometimes that's Gyokuko, at least 2-3 times a week. Domyo usually manages one a week. We've had a part-time resident, a lay person, doing meals 2 times a week most of this spring. They all cook a bit differently. Domyo likes cooking Mexican, Indian, or Japanese food. Gyokuko cooks Italian, Swedish, American, and eclectic food. The requirements are that it have a starch (potatoes, rice, noodles, pasta, tortillas, bread, etc.), a protein (tofu, beans, cheese [but some alternative for the abbot who can't do dairy], or eggs), and a vegetable (preferably something fresh rather than canned or frozen).

We try to vary all of those so we don't have the same thing two nights in a row. We try to take into account everyone's dietary needs and to some extent preferences. They have been very accommodating of the fact that I really don't like highly spicy foods. So once in a while they make a separate thing for me and Gyokuko (since there are several spices she can't have), but usually they just put extra spice on the side so people can add it. So a very spicy mole sauce or highly charged chili sauce goes in its own bowl to be passed after the entree. And there's always hot chilli sauce as a condiment on the table.

This week is an exception. Because the abbots are out of town and Domyo is busy with family and wedding plans, the rest of us are more or less on our own. Though Domyo did organize a signup system so we would have cooks for dinner every night. Last night we had Indian food, that is, adaptations on traditional Indian dishes. It was delicious. Tonight I think one of the residents is going to spring for pizza, which will be a change, but kind of fun. Tomorrow night I've signed up to cook, and will do one of my standby meals of rice and beans and a veggie stir-fry.

I have a friend once who asked me where I'd like to go eat, and my reply was that the best food in town I know of is right here. Gyokuko could have been a chef, and at some point I think she wanted to do that. She told me, though, that her parents insisted that she go to college, so she did, and then dropped out before graduating. I don't know her whole story. But as a cook, she's first-rate.

What I've been doing this week in terms of work is assisting with the newsletter and trying to get some of my personal stuff more organized. I bought a new cheap Palm (pda) that I'm working on getting set up properly. The old one wasn't working right, and that's been true for a while, so there's some updating and such that I have to do. In addition, Palm has "improved" some of their systems, so I have to learn that as well. Sigh. And there's always other stuff to catch up with and follow up on. Website maintenance is never-ending. Always something new to learn and update. We're gearing up for camp registration for the August Dharma Camp for kids.

One thing I can mention is that it looks like the month of October I will be going to California for a special Ango Training period. They will have four teachers, presumably one a week, focusing on different aspects of priest training. This is through the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, which is really working on getting more systematic training set up for priests. It will be nice to meet some of my fellow novices there.

I got to have lunch on Monday with some former co-workers with Head Start. They now have offices at the Marylhurst University campus, and we went to a nearby Thai restaurant. It was neat to see so many people there (we ended up with 8 of us), and they enjoyed getting together as well.


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