A Lesson in Cooperative Cooking

A few months ago I was up at Khensur Rinpoche’s Center in Connecticut and I was helping (or maybe just getting in the way) Ven. Tashi and Ven. Ngawang prepare lunch for a large group of students who were coming for Rinpoche’s Six Yogas class. I noticed that they’ve figured out a way to cook cooperatively.

Ven. Tashi is the senior of the two, but each monk had his own dish to prepare. They sort of took turns being the head chef and helper. So when Ven. Tashi was getting his dish ready, Ven Ngawang did most of the chopping and prep work and he followed Ven Tashi’s specifications — carrots cut this way, this amount of onions cut this way, etc. They joked a lot about the quantity and spices being used, but it was Ven Tashi’s final decision. Then, it was Ven Ngawang’s turn to prepare his dish – a vegetarian bean and mixed veggie chili, and so the roles were reversed. Ven Ngawang told Ven Tashi how to prepare the ingredients and he did the cooking to his taste. I (junior Ani Nobody) made the salad, and here again, Ven Tashi helped me with some of the chopping (he’s Way faster than I am) and asked me how to prepare the salad dressing etc.

Rinpoche was the over-riding authority, so when he stopped by and told me I was cutting the potatoes too big (even though Ven Tashi had approved the size, I think), everyone laughed, and I re-chopped them to his specs.

So I think there’s a lesson in cooperative cooking to be learned here. The other day I was over at some friends’ house for dinner, and the husband and wife were busy cooking while I sat around being unhelpful. The husband was trying very hard to follow his wife’s instructions but kept burning the pancakes, or over cooking the eggs. Both were getting a little grumpy and muttering the old  “your way”, “my way”. Maybe taking turns being the Head Chef would have helped. Anyway, in the end the dinner was great.

Have fun cooking Thanksgiving dinner with your friends and family, and may it be both delicious and fun!


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