Wednesday, March 27, 2019

eating oatmeal with chopsticks

One of the totally-useless and yet useful things I learned in Zen training was how to eat oatmeal with chopsticks.

Morning meals during retreats found me hungry and so I learned to poke and prod and shovel the gruel whose stickiness quotient did not always allow for easy pickings.

But of course eating was not the sole function of retreats. Retreats were a matter of focusing and boring in on the endless mishegas that was my very own. Lines tended to blur. Beginnings and endings seemed to weave together until the one and the other mishmashed and melded.

Lunch, I learned, was the logical time for the biggest meal of the day. Breakfast was second. And dinner was third. My body said so.

Totally useless information which I am happy today to have learned in my own backward way.


  1. I wonder if spoonlessness was (is?) an American Rinzai Zen thing.

    I’ve sat with two different Rinzai Groups and two different Soto Zen Groups and both Soto Groups provided spoons.

    I don’t think Oatmeal was on either school’s original menu.

    Anyway, for me it’s easier to eat oatmeal with chopsticks than it is to eat a whole bunch of things starting with rice.

    As for “authenticity” Wikipedia says this about spoons:
    “Spoons were used as early as the Shang dynasty of the 2nd millennium B.C., both as a cooking tool and in eating, and were more common than chopsticks until perhaps the 10th century A.D.”

    It may very well be that spoons were eliminated from various Zen sect’s utensil kits as being unnecessary. I can see American Zen schools eliminating chopsticks and forks in favor of a single spoon or a spork.

    Sorry you saw the lesson as useless, I’m sure many will agree, others, including myself find it a small but useful lesson in improvising..

    If there are any Zen groups in the Mideast or Africa, do they eat with their hands or with Japanese utensils, I wonder.