"This is a woman who has never worked in a restaurant, let alone owned one. She’s never had any official culinary training and never published a cookbook. She doesn’t use garlic or onions in her (strictly vegan) recipes – ingredients which some Buddhists believe stimulate the libido. But Kwan has the New York restaurant scene in her thrall, directors climbing the steep, dusty half-mile between the temple and the small hermitage she shares with two other nuns – and an entirely new breed of acolytes queuing up to digest her wisdom. While she finds it the funny side of this, she also sees it as a useful means of propagating her own perspective on food preparation. For her, cooking should never be about greed – the licking of lips and the stuffing of faces. It should be about serving dishes as a means to a higher end: clean bodies and clean minds.
'Food is meant to nourish your body and help your mind find enlightenment,' she says. 'It’s a way of bringing humans back to nature, of clearing our minds for meditation. This is how we grow.' To illustrate her point, she jabs a tiny finger in my direction. 'You’re the soil,' she says. 'Food is the seed.'”A few years back I went to a temple outside of Daegu for Buddha's Birthday (a national holiday in Korea). On that day you can get a "free" bowl of vegetable bibimbap (but you're an idjit if you don't throw five thousand won into a collection box.) It was good, but Ms. Kwan's dishes sound even better.
But also a small nitpick: "zen" is the Japanese term for Korean "seon" Buddhism. Why so many writers use the former rather than the latter when talking about Korean, well, anything, is beyond me.
Note: Posts tagged with "Advanced Conversation" were used with my adult English students as jumping-off points for discussions.