Monday, March 14, 2011
First, the good news: I won the gift basket at the farmers' market I visit every Sunday morning. Once a month, they have a drawing for a wicker basket with $100 worth of produce, and I have never won it before. I had a strong feeling I would win it this time so when they called with the news, I was not surprised.
The produce in the basket is predominantly green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I thought briefly of giving it back as I am not Irish and therefore, perhaps, undeserving, but luck of the Irish, the urge passed. And now I am in a moral quandary as there was a huge stalk of brussels sprouts, which I heartily despise although it is undeniably picturesque ~ like a shillelagh with lymph nodes, capable of inflicting grave mortal damage. So I mentally inventoried everyone to whom I could give the thing and came up empty. Throwing it away is not an option because it would be wrong to scorn free food, nasty as it is, grown by a farmer and given to me. There have been times in my life when I was hungry, and I'm not about to tempt the fates again.
I looked online for recipes and learned that brussels sprouts on the stalk are likely to have tiny bugs in them and should be soaked for 15 minutes. I'm a vegetarian. After removing the little heads from their momma, I set them to soak in the kitchen sink last night and they are still there, emitting a terrible odor. As a child, I was often importuned to eat because of all the starving children in Europe. I passionately wished that my parents would take all that liver and cauliflower and send it to them. In today's world, there are starving children everywhere, and some of them would doubtless love to dine on brussels sprouts. Again, I am powerless to repair this inequity.
Yet my resistance is great. I even looked to The Buddha for loopholes, but he laughed. He instructed that we think about where the food came from and the amount of work necessary to grow it, transport it, prepare it and bring it to the table. I've already covered the growing and transporting part on my own, am stuck on preparing and eating it. One should then consider if one deserves the food. Do I detect a slight bit of wiggle room there? Clearly I am unworthy if I am spending so much energy on not eating food I was given. I am the very definition of "unworthy." If you look it up in the dictionary, you will see my picture. Food is only received and eaten for the purpose of "realizing the Way," which is undeniably difficult to accomplish while gagging. What we have here is a doctrinal dilemma.
The Five Moral Precepts are no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or partaking of intoxicants. I do none of those except maybe lying on occasion. You would think I could finagle a pass on brussels sprouts. Reading further, I learn that onions, garlic and other pungent plants are forbidden. No one could deny that brussels sprouts are pungent. I read faster, but no. The five plants are onions, garlic, scallions, chives and radishes because eating them creates anger and bad temperament as well as attracting hungry ghosts. I would be willing to attract ghosts if they would take these brussels sprouts off my hands.
My limited understanding of Buddhism tells me that food, eating and taste are all illusions anyway, not a part of our true, seeing nature, which is distorted by our ignorance. Buddhism aims to end all suffering, and I believe that I can best advance my true, seeing nature by not suffering at dinner. After all, charity begins at home. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.