Isabella Jackson ‘2021

Now, I wish I could say that I have been able to be in the presence of Buddhist nuns as they prepare revitalizing and beautiful masterpieces when making their meals. but I have only been able to see it through food documentaries like Chef’s Table. Beauty, life and food are all entertained in the structure of the Buddhist faith. Nourishing meals are also spiritual journeys and help bring literal and spiritual harmony in the body. Jeong Kwan, a Buddhist nun, who was featured in the acclaimed food documentary series, Chef’s Table, expounded on the relationship of mind, body, soul and spirit. Buddhism is not the only religion that believes these are connected, but with their view and relationship with food, their practice truly shows and creates the connection between those facets of life. Being able to harmonize in all of those compartments, unite them into unison and then enjoy eating that in a meal will bring you to enlightenment or nirvana. 

For years, I have been fascinated after my exposure to the beauty of this religion and the food cooked specifically in the temples. Many nuns use food as a gift of love and create it as a vocation. Using food as the vessel to help others, as well as create harmony in themselves and followers of Buddhism. Meditation, prayer and the process of making the food and what ingredients are used is the vessel being used to help others. Health is the goal as well, and the ingredients chosen are the most whole foods you can find. Korean Buddhism is a vegetarian diet that uses seasonal plants and herbs to nourish the body. Each meal is simple but creates an edible example of balance that correlates with the ideals of Buddhism. Lotus roots are served, and mushrooms that have been pickled in soy sauce are eaten in acompaniament. Potato dumplings, with the temple garden’s freshly picked herbs and vegetables are served. Tofu topped with a dollop of tunechi, or Korean pickled vegetables, is enjoyed in a perfect bite size serving. It sounds like a fairy tale, but temple food, in it’s down to earth simplicity and humbleness, radiates a unified energy that has been achieved by the skillfulness of the temple chefs. They have mastered these flavors and know how to unite foods that create a satisfying cohesion. Kimche and decades old soy sauce recipes are used to spark life in these dishes, furthering the depth and connection of the food as well as one’s spirituality. Watching the process of a Buddhist nun cook is as if the vegetables have become incarnational. It is seeing the inanimate, impact the living, and inspire faith. The food becomes one with each other and a step is further taken as they become one with you. 

Photo Credit: Jeong Kwan

Written by

Isabella Jackson

Isabella Jackson, junior, is excited to be a part of the Humanities Academy. She plays tennis and is part of the missions program at OLu, both of which she loves. She has always enjoyed writing as well as reading, but she vividly remembers struggling with it in middle school. She was nonetheless interested in English and especially loved her sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Perez. Humanities is a place where art, literature and the history of those subjects come together, and it is always amazing when the things one loves come together.