We’re two weeks into the second of two study retreats. It makes for busy days with much to reflect on. I’m using the time to ruminate on both the philosophical groundings of the life I’ve chosen, as well as the practical approach to facing situations where my vision or my style of communication feel at odds with the people around me. This is how we expand our sense of self until it is so vast that it evaporates. That’s the plan anyway.
I give you two quotes and one cake that colored the days of my last week.
Before he left this world, the Buddha said this to his followers,
“Be attentive; take care to this: all phenomena are impermanent.
All that appears based on cause and condition is by nature impermanent. Whatever the phenomena, all that we acquire, all that appears, everything, finishes by coming apart, exhausting itself. All things eventually run out; sooner or later they fall to dust. All that is united finishes by coming apart. Even the greatest love, the closest relationship, sooner or later separates. All that is living finishes in death.”
Though this reflection is painful, its truth can carry us through both the deepest and most minor losses, for they could never be otherwise. All will one day be lost; we must then let it go.
Yesterday we had a meeting with Jigme Rinpoche, the spiritual guide of the center, about the future direction of Dhagpo. He told us this,
“When we see what we want to obtain, this allows us to choose a path and make a commitment.”
I want to obtain the deepest understanding, the greatest love, and the capacity to aid beings. For that, I choose the path of practice, be it on the cushion or in the kitchen, developing confidence in enlightenment or in everyday life.
I have been taught that even the smallest act may yield the greatest result if the intention is pure. Mine’s not yet, but I’m working on it. Here’s to baking with loving-kindness.
As for the recipe, this was an experiment born from my deep love of carrot cake mixed with interminable curiosity regarding ingredient substitutions. The result was rather polarizing. Three-quarters a room full of people found this cake subtle and complex, an unexpected wonder. The other quarter thought it tasted like the ocean and this was weird and unpleasant. As far as tasting notes go, the flavor of this cake is the magical fifth taste discovered in Japan and called umami. The other four are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, if you were wondering. Umami is a kind of richness that’s vaguely earthly with herbal tones. If you’re a traditionalist and you like dessert that tastes like dessert, better to wait for next time. If your tastebuds appreciate novelty and you’re a fan of sweet-savory combos, then this is for you.
Celery Root Snack Cake
adapted from The Joy of Baking
2 2/3 cups (220 grams) white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 mL) salt
1/2 teaspoon (3 mL) ground cardamom
2 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (240 mL) vegetable oil
1 cup (100 grams) toasted hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups (340 grams) grated celeriac
Preheat oven to 350 ˚ F (180˚ C). Grease a 9″ x 13″ (23 cm x 33 cm) pan.
Sift together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer or a big whisk and a lot of elbow grease, whip the eggs until pale and frothy, about one minutes. Add the sugar a little at a time while beating until a beater pulled from the bowl leaves a visible ribbon that takes a few seconds to melt back into the batter, about three to four minutes. Continue beating and add the oil in a slow stream. Beat until fully incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the celery root and hazelnuts until evenly distributed. Pour into the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and the top springs lightly back when touched. Allow to cool. Dust with powder sugar, cut into squares, and play the guess-the-secret-ingredient game with open-minded friends.