I read, “Question everything! Leave no stone unturned, no assumption unexamined, no form of denial left intact.” It is from the latest offering of spiritual teacher Adyashanti, a small publication that arrives as a gift from him just before Christmas called “The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.” Hmmmm. Of course it is only just a guide and this is the whole point, to question even his own words on this page in this moment. And I am transported back to NYC, 1978, I am 20 years old and beginning my year of studies at The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies with architect and teacher Peter Eisenman, and he has just told us quite clearly and emphatically that by the end of the year we would be left questioning everything! I can feel the rumble of excitement in my belly even now, of not really intellectually knowing that this would be not be a road to ‘knowing’, just the visceral intuitive knowing that I was on a road to the experience of seeking truth by questioning everything….
I realize that this is the rumble I feel when I walk into the kitchen to prepare a meal, every time I begin a new project, anticipate a new quilt, consider what I will be teaching, or who I will be meeting in a client. I never know what will be there for me to find or for me to consider. The ‘what if?’ of the moment is always there and it has the same significance no matter what the context.
What if I combine the leftover cooked sweet potatoes from Christmas eve dinner with the leftover brown rice from two nights ago? What if I mash the potato, add the rice and an egg, form patties, and fry them in some olive oil? Now an image forms. Add some salt and cayenne pepper to the mix. Preheat the pan and put the patties in and stand there to keep watch, imagining the crunchy exterior forming now, careful, don’t want them to burn, turn them in the pan just in time, oh dear, are they burned? No. Just a little darker than I imagined….
While ‘they’, precious that they are now, continue to slowly brown on the other side, fire on low, I prepare the head of fresh broccoli, cut it into small pieces that will cook in just moments in a pan with equal splashes of water, olive oil, tamari and lemon juice for steaming until just crisp done.
At this point, it doesn’t feel like there are any more questions, the stream of ‘what if’s’ have combined to form a clear process that results in a plate arranged with two patties with the broccoli heaped across the middle and sprinkled with sesame seeds….
It is delicious. Simple and satisfying!! The small amount of potato – rice mix left if the bowl is formed into one last patty for the pan. It is no longer a question or a mystery as to how long it will take to brown evenly, and this one last patty is seemingly perfect, so what is left to question here if I were to make it again? Only everything!! Is it an organic potato? what kind of sweet potato? where was it grown? what kind of brown rice, short grain or long grain? where does the olive oil come from, does it matter? what kind of pan is used, would it make a difference if it was a non-stick pan instead of the stainless steel one I used? is it sea salt or regular salt with iodine? does any of this really make a difference? why even bother with this process? why not just combine the leftovers in a bowl and heat in the microwave? why?
What I have come to know, as I ‘know’ with everything I share here, is that I will never make this dish exactly the same way again. I know that I have loved making it. And I know that even the best recipe that has been used over and over again is just an illusion at best, that the recipe is simply a guide to experience, in awareness, a moment of unique ingredients, unique atmosphere, and energy from unique hands that have prepared. What I have come to ‘know’ is that questioning everything creates the space and the process for leading us to a unique taste, a unique form of nourishment, and a unique moment of experience no matter what the endeavor may be…