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‘Radishes Smile, and All Beings Rejoice’

The title is a quotation from one section of Edward Espe Brown’s book Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings.  I’ll be talking about radishes in a bit, but first some words about the author and about the book in general.  Edward Espe Brown was the head chef at the San Francisco vegetarian restaurant Greens.  In addition, he is also the author of the Tassajara Bread Book and Tassajara Cooking.  And he has been associated for many years with the San Francisco Zen Center. 

The book, Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, is nominally a vegetarian cookbook.  But it is at least as much a guide to mindfulness as it is a cookbook.  As an example, there is a wonderful section called Eating Just One Potato Chip.  Fortunately for all of us, it has been published on the web with permission.

Another spot in the book, he describes being invited for dinner at the home of another gourmet chef.  The appetizers turn out to be a plate of radishes, with dishes of sweet butter and salt on the side.  He reports that his reaction, rather than being one of “Is this all there is?” was one of recognizing just how joyful the radishes were.   Then came the tasting.  He reports that it was in fact four separate dishes: radish solo, radish with butter, radish with salt, and radish with butter and salt.  In his “recipe”, he suggests that the most important thing is that the radishes be radiant [in my words].

Last weekend at the farmers market, I came upon some truly astounding radishes, bunches in an assortment of varieties.  I recalled the Radish Lesson, and decided that this would be a great time to try it out for myself.  I can only report that he didn’t prepare me for  just how different the four dishes are.  In particular, if you’re one of those people who find radishes too spicy, you might give radishes with butter a try.  The butter really calms down the fire of the radish.  And this is a great exercise for those of us who tend to eat quickly.  Each separate bite was so wonderful that I found myself taking a lot of time just to savor.  Now that’s a radish!

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