Shōjin Ryōri

You might be inspired by this article describing Shōjin ryōri, an approach to food preparation derived from Japanese Buddhism going as far back as the 6th Century.

Literally “devotion cuisine” it is designed to promote alignment of mind, body and soul into careful balance.  It strikes me as an extension to the mindfulness and community that has motivated our collective gardening efforts over the past few months.

Shojin ryōri focuses not only the importance of ingredient selection and balance, but the mindfulness of the chef. “It’s about finding the perfect balance, and this comes from the rule of five,” the article notes, drawing on the five phases of Chinese Philosophy known as wuxing, the number thought to reflect the cyclical balance needed in nature and society. “In shōjin ryōri, this applies to colour, flavour and technique: the goshoku (colour) of white, black, red, green and yellow; the gomi (flavour) of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami; and the goho (technique) of simmered, fried, raw, steamed and grilled are all required elements.”

In addition to nutritional balance, the rules of wuxing apply to the five senses, inspiring the diner to notice and value each ingredient as well as the care taken to prepare it.

Shojin ryōri is also an opportunity for connection with other people. “Passed from chef to diner, the meal forms a bridge.”

Another aspect of Shojin ryōri that I particularly appreciate is “ichimotsu zentai”, which means “to use the whole thing”. “The most important part of shōjin is consideration and appreciation for us to survive, we receive the lives of other things, so we must not waste them.” Nothing should be discarded thoughtlessly.

“Itadakimasu” or “I humbly receive” is a phrase those practicing shojin ryōri use when eating to acknowledge the sanctity of food lovingly grown in community, prepared with awareness and savored as the perfection it is.

Download a pdf copy of the article here:
BBC – Travel – Japan’s ancient vegetarian meal