MARCH 24, 2020

CHEW Cookbook Review: Seasons of the Monastic Table (Emergence Online Magazine)

“Seasons of the Monastic Table” Digital Cookbook

Emergence Online Magazine Issue No.6 – Food

Image source

Being homebound during the last days of winter entering an uncertain spring seems a good time to take a necessary pause, reassess deep priorities for all things, and figure out ways to carry those forward as the prospect of more hopeful seasons are to come. To pause and reassess deep priorities would be one way to describe the fascinating ‘production’ of Emergence online magazine which, like its namesake, is all about tracking the emerging edge of eco-spiritual trends by retraining ourselves to experience deep culture in all of its best roots and offering daily ways to expand its community.

David Zilber, director of fermentation at Noma - image source

The food issue takes many forms. A podcast interview with David Zilber, director of the fermentation lab at Noma, the world-famous restaurant in Denmark, discusses how biology and anthropology intermingle in the fine art of fermentation. “Tasting Sunlight,” a multimedia film by Kalyanee Mam, shows us in near hyper-real time how a family in the Areng Valley of Cambodia forage through ponds for fish and mushrooms. “The Seeds of Ancestors: A Day at the Soul Fire Farm” by Chelsea Steinauer Scudder, profiles work to “create spaces for people of color to heal and reconnect to the land – an effort to end America’s food apartheid system.” A classic essay by Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating,” is introduced by Alice Waters, who has held onto Berry’s phrase “Eating is an agricultural act,” from the get go. The intense productions don’t exploit multimedia to merely glow. Instead they bring subjects closer to view, to ear, to nearly smell, where they serve as invitations to participate.

Summer menu - image source

There is also a digital cookbook offered that sees us through this process of deep culture and reassessment of daily priorities. The Seasons of the Monastic Table is categorized as an ‘experience,’ as it introduces us to a spiritual approach to cooking with the seasons. The brief introduction is culled partially from Joy Harjo, “Remember the earth whose skin you are,” that captures the essence of the food issue well. “We are grown from the body of the Earth, we are made of it, and to it we return. Plants, bacteria, animals, fungi, humans: we all exist in relationship to each other … being attentive to these cycles and patterns can be a practice of remembrance.” The idea of practice is reoccurring throughout the magazine and, of course, cooking would be one of the most vital daily reminders of the gift of the bounty at our fingertips if we are attentive.

Spring menu - image source

The spring menu offered is bright, fresh and real. Nettle Soup with Egg alongside Sleepy Spelt Bread, Warm Miso Lentils with Mushroom and finished by raw nettle leaves steeped for tea. The rustic tabletop photo shoot of Iced Meadow Soup is a visual treat in its own right and seems to capture the essence not only of the summer season, but of a proposal for the patience of time itself, as its garnishes of fresh flowers and crisp vegetables floating over ice cubes and noodles shining in the sun do ask for savoring.