Years and years ago, I was watching something like the Antiques Road show. I remember an older lady having the most beautiful handmade quilt appraised. The host explained how the Amish women who made the quilt would purposely make a square which didn’t fit into the continuity of the piece, because nothing in their eyes could be perfect but their God. While apparently this practice is a mere myth, I have always loved the story. Regardless of ones spiritual belief, I think we can all be reminded that nothing of this world is, or can ever be, perfect. It is so easy to get caught up in striving for the unattainable, that it’s hard to see the accomplishments one does make. Sometimes, the end goal is so blinding, that we never see the steps we have taken along the road to get where we are today.
I often have to remind myself that imperfection, whether it be about my life, my body, or me as a person, is something to I need to embrace. Imperfection is what life is about; it is what makes each of us different, interesting, and beautiful. The scar on my right cheek, the wrinkles when I smile, the way my pants fit (or don’t for that matter) are not things to get overly worked up about. While there is often space were we can improve upon and things to learn, there is also no need to beat up oneself regarding things they cannot change.
This brings me to dinner and wabi sabi. The term wabi sabi represents a complex Japanese world view and aesthetic, but it is often simplified in the west to mean the beauty in imperfection and impermanence. Imperfection and impermanence just happen to be two words which perfectly describe life and everything in it, including dinner in my home.When it comes to cooking, I am not the kind of person to really follow a recipe. Instead, I like to think of myself as the queen of substitutions. Rarely do I ever have all the ingredients I need to make a near-perfect meal. Ninety-nine percent of the time I am short a desired ingredient that would bring the meal to the next level. Often it’s the case of last time I made this I used yam, this time I will use broccoli. Sometimes this substitution works better than others.
The wabi sabi bowl is perfect because it is meant to be imperfect, it strives for imperfection, and that is why it is so delicious. With a simple formula and a tasty sauce, you can let your imagination go wild. It is a wonderful dish to use up left overs, or those veggies which are going bad at the back of the fridge. No rules, no problems, no pressure. One part grains, one part cooked veggies, two parts raw veggies, and one part protein, plus some garnish, and you’re set. I took inspiration for my bowl from a roll of sushi and use avocado, cucumber, edamame, and yams, but just about anything will be delicious.
Grains (Pick 1): Rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, rice noodles.
Protein (Pick 1): Beans of any kind, tempeh, organic tofu, ethically caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds.
Raw Veggies (Pick 2 or 3): Grated carrot, grated beet root, leafy greens, radish, cucumber, avocado, kimchi/sauerkraut, young asparagus, fresh peas, daikon, sprouts.
Cooked Veggies (Pick 1): Mushrooms, yam/sweet potato, carrot, beet, turnip, squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, kale,egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower.
Wabi Sabi Bowl
1/3 English Cucumber, cut into half moons
1 Green Onion, slivered
Pickled Ginger (Recipe Below)
Gomasio (Recipe Below)
Tamari Ginger Sauce (Recipe Below)
1. Begin by preparing the rice. Combine the 1/2 cup of brown rice with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then with the lid on, turn down to a very low simmer. Cook for about 30- 40 minutes, or until tender.
2. Cut the yam in 1/2 (or in quarters if it is very large), and then into 1/2 cm slices. Toss with 1 tsp oil and roast at 220 C (425 F) tossing halfway through, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.This is perfect time to get the sauce and ginger prepared.
3. Once the rice and yams are cooked, you can bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the edamame. They only need a couple of minutes to warm up.
4. Once everything is prepared, arrange equally in two bowls and serve with ginger, gomasio, and sauce.
Tamari Ginger Sauce
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisking thoroughly. Store left overs in the refrigerator.
**If you prefer a thicker sauce, place all ingredients in a small pot, along with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tsp. tapioca starch with 2 tsp water, and add to the sauce pot. Let simmer for roughly 20 minutes (long enough for the extra water to boil away), stirring occasionally.
Quick Pickled Ginger
Peel the ginger and slice as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the ginger with sea salt and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, squeeze the ginger, removing the extra moisture. Combine the vinegar, honey, and ginger and let marinade for at least 30 minutes.