Be Grateful for Buddha Bowl Lunches
Oryoki is an ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Zen Buddhist eating practice that centers on a tidy bundle of nested, lacquered wooden bowls. An eater takes just enough food to adequately nourish her body at any given meal. And she eats slowly, mindfully, and with deep gratitude. The same kind of gratitude a busy worker has for her morning self who was organized enough to pack a healthy, delicious lunch so she doesn’t have to run out to get something that neither satisfies her wholesome food cravings or placates her local and sustainable eating sensibilities.
The largest of these nested bowls is called the zuhatsu, or the Buddha Bowl, because its deep, rounded shape symbolizes the Buddha’s head and depth of wisdom. Early Buddhist monks would use these bowls to beg for food, cultivating equanimity by gratefully accepting whatever was offered them.
More recently, Buddha Bowls (also called Nourish Bowls, Hippie Bowls, Yoga Bowls, and Glory Bowls) have been pushed along secularly on social media (seriously, check out #buddhabowl) as a great way to feed a body vegetable-forward meals as part of a leaner, greener lifestyle. The bottom of the bowl is lined with a healthy portion of chopped leafy greens and the top showcases an arrangement of colorful raw and roasted vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and a sprinkling of seeds or nuts. The dressings are simple, mostly vegan-compliant lemon- and/or tahini-based mixtures.
While there is no strict formula for Buddha Bowl composition, a scan of over 100 recipes showed that an individual bowl generally contains 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent grains, and 25 percent proteins. To make these bowls green as well as lean, use seasonal vegetables, sustainable proteins, (such as organic legumes, local eggs, roasted pumpkin or winter squash seeds, pastured chickens, or responsibly harvested seafood) and local grains (such as wheat, rye, or spelt berries all readily available in New Hampshire).
It makes sense, sustainably speaking, to cook one pot of grains on the weekend to have on hand for Buddha Bowl lunches throughout the week. Chef Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, advocates sprouting local whole grains, germinating the seeds, that is, to make them easier to digest and make the nutrients in them more available to a body.
To do that, Barber suggests soaking two cups of grains in a large bowl with water that stands two inches above the top of the berries. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it stand overnight. The next day, drain the berries, pat them dry, and spread them out in an even layer in a large, shallow container. Cover and let them stand at room temperature for about 48 hours until the berries begin to sprout. The little sprouted wheat, rye, or spelt berries look like tiny, brown olives with a little pimento sticking out of one end.
Combine the sprouted berries with two quarts of cool water in a pot, bring it to a simmer, stir in one teaspoon of salt and cover and cook until tender. Let the berries cool in the water to room temperature, drain them, and then they are ready to be welcomed into any Buddha Bowl or be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Much in the same way that a basic omelet, pasta sauce, soup, or pizza base can be a creative way to repurpose leftovers, a Buddha Bowl is a great place for your roasted potatoes from Sunday lunch to coexist with the black beans from Taco Tuesday and the greens that came attached to the beets that went into your borscht on Thursday. Taking the time to arrange these elements artfully in a bowl for a satisfying meal that you savor slowly will make you very grateful to be sitting and eating in that moment.