Oryoki is an ancient Chinese, Japanese and Zen Buddhist eating practice that centers on a tidy bundle of nested lacquered wooden bowls; taking just enough food to adequately nourish your body at any given meal; and eating slowly, mindfully and with deep gratitude.

Having just participated in a gluttonous American Thanksgiving weekend that included two soup-to-nuts turkey dinners, I am intrigued by this practice for both my waistline and the lessons in sustainable eating it facilitates.

The largest of the 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, 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 is 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 (see recipe).

While there is no strict formula for Buddha Bowl composition, a scan of over 100 recipes showed they generally include 50 percent vegetables and 25 percent each grains and proteins. To make these bowls green as well as lean, use seasonal vegetables (for us in Maine that means hearty winter greens, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, beets and winter squash), local grains (wheat, rye or spelt berries all available from Maine Grains or directly from a growing number of Maine farms) and sustainable proteins (organic legumes, local eggs, roasted pumpkin or winter squash seeds, pastured chickens or responsibly harvested seafood).

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.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: [email protected]


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