Customer Reviews: 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery
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on August 27, 2000
I was drawn to this book by its cover, so sometimes it is possible to tell a book by its cover. Seppo Ed Farrey is the head chef for the Dai Basatsu Zendo in Livingston Manor, NY, a catskills retreat 20 miles from the smallest town. It is a Rinzai Zen monastery led by Eido T Shimano Roshi. As the abbott, he teaches that cooking can be a practice of spirituality, since it involves beauty, economy of movement, lack of waste, and punctuality. The co-author cooks for nearly two dozen monks and laypeoplen, and up to 70 visitors. Meals are punctual, 7:15 AM and 1 PM. Meals are served and eaten in silence. Each diner gets three bowls and a set of chopsticks (Did you ever try to eat oatmeal with chopsticks?) The large bowl contains the main dish, the middle bowl contains a stew or curry, and the small bowl will contain a vegetable or salad (not a lettuce and tomato salad though). This book is filled with inspiring, simple, nutritious recipes, as well as a few pages dedicated to Zen terms and ingredient descriptions, and a page of 3 mail order sources for a few ingredients (this should have been expanded!) The book is also filled with sidebars and explanations on Zen practice: such as the Zen way to crack a hard boiled egg, sitting sesshin, jikijitsu, 10 precepts of buddhism, kinhin (walking meditation), dokusan (the interview with the roshi), doing zazen, and meal chants. The recipes include 10 breakfast dishes, like cream of quinoa, oatmeal pancakes, and 5 grain porridge. There are 10 rice dishes like spinach rice with tamari and mirin, shitaki rice, and a spicy rice bake with collard greens, black eyed peas and sweet potato. There are 8 noodle dishes like szechuan green beans and soba, or a classic marinara sauce that uses applesauce, onions, and fennel. There are 14 grain/bean/tofu stew and curry dishes for the second bowl, including a quinoa veggie stew, sweet potato burritos, a sunflower based stuffing, and a mushroom quinoa nut loaf. The 13 veggie dishes include asparagus with lime and tamari; kale with tofu; a non dairy mashed potato that uses pureed tofu, beets with hijiki, and tahini butternut squash. The 17 salads and dressings include beet raiti, a faux chicken salad that uses tempeh and lemon juice; and a red grape salad dressing. Of the eleven soups only four are miso (thankfully). As for desserts, as mentioned above, there are muffins, baked goods, spreads, pates, pestos, and sauces including cheesecake and rice pudding (yes, Zen meditators can let loose with pudding and cake).
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on May 10, 2000
This book is a true work of art and of heart. The recipes are creative and exciting. The book is calming. The recipes are imaginative and include clear preparation techniques. Many recipes harmoneously combine unlikely ingredients. Many provide alternate ways to prepare the same recipe.
Included with the recipes is a well-written personal tour of the Zen Buddhist Monastery including meditations. The book's title, 3Bowls, almost becomes alive when they explain how foods are traditionally served at the Monastery.
The authors' love and respect for food, as well as the spiritual life, is clear and contageous. I am overwhelmed by this book. I find myself repeatedly reading each page. Even the paper upon which the book is printed is joyous. The recipes work whether you are cooking for one or many. This is definately a great tool for those of us seeking ways to calm ourselves, remember our spirt, and nourish our bodies.
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on June 26, 2000
After a year of meditating daily, I knew it was time to rethink my eating habits. I bought this book on Thursday. On Friday, I made the Quinoa Vegetable Stew (had to ask at the health food store what "quin-wah" was!) and the Schezuan Green Beans and Soba noodles. The next day we tried the Red Potato Salad with Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts (with my own substitutions) and Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup. Everything was superb, and so simple! I felt as though I had experienced eating as it should be...This is food that nourishes the body and the spirit. Wonderful to prepare, uplifing to eat!
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on December 6, 2005
Pretend you're the farthest thing from a vegetarian. Pretend you would never, in a million years, pick up some flaky, hippie cookbook.

The recipe for Apricot-Sweet Potato Oatmeal is still worth the cover price, and you will NEVER bother to make a single batch. Double it every time.

Apparently, eating simply does not at all preclude eating well, since these simple, nutritionally dense recipes produce complex, delicious dishes.

Excellent for busy families, most recipes can easily be one-pot meals, frozen for later, and/or prepped for easy cooking.

For us, the anecdotal philosophy was an added bonus and helped us to eat mindfully as well. However, even if you completely ignore the margins, footnotes, and insets this book will be one covered in foodie fingerprints within a week!
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on August 4, 2000
I really purchased this book on a whim - and was delightfully surprised. I'm always looking for good vegetarian cookbooks and this book by Farrey and O'Hara is now a favorite. Simple but delicious recipes combine with serene anecdotes of life in a Zen monastery and the "mindfulness" of food and meditation. The use of tofu is effortless and inspired unlike many vegetarian cookbooks that struggle with making it into a "meat analog". Using fresh, in season produce, the soups and stews are hearty and flavorful and all recipes have thankfully been cut down to normal portions (versus cooking for 40 monks as the author usually does). A treasured resource.
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on May 16, 2000
This is a great book! The recipes are delicious and easy to follow. After buying the book I immediately made the Broccoli Rabe with Ginger, Honey and Lemon. Delicious! You don't necessarily have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these wonderfully tasty and easy to prepare meals. Included with the recipes are beautifully descriptive and evocative commentaries about life at the Zen monastery where the authors practice. These descriptions add a unique dimension to this "gem" of a cookbook. A perfect addition to my kitchen library and a great gift book!
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on February 20, 2004
Don't let the tone of the 1 star review mislead you. After cooking with this book for about 3 month and have tried about 1/4 of the recipes from this book, I think I can say, with a certain conviction, that this is a wonderful book. My personal favorites are "Sauteed kale with Soft Tofu", "Roasted Butternut Squash" and "Sauteed Beets and Hijiki", not all all luxurious but, rather, simple and fullfilling food. I also enjoy the excerpts written by Myochi; wonderful glimpses into aspects of Zen practice. In comparison to "A Taste of Heaven and Earth" by Bettina Vitell, also a former Tenzo, this book is much simpler in range but having also cooked with Vitell's book, I think 3 Bowls is the winner for me.
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on October 1, 2001
I don't know if you're supposed to cry when you read a cookbook, but I did. The descriptions of life at the monastery were so moving and engaging I felt like I was there, participating in the simple directness that is Zen buddhism. And then when I made some of the recipes, I understood what Seppo Ed Farrey means when he speaks about mindful cooking. The food was delicious, and rich in a way that almost defies description. The recipes are complex enough to fool the non-vegetarian palate, simple enough for an amateur to prepare, and wholesome and nourishing -- what more could you ask for?! The only natural response to that question would be ANOTHER great cookbook filled with his creative and loving recipes. Seppo, give us more!!!!
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on November 12, 2000
This cookbook is beautiful and the food is terrific. I have had it but a week and have already made several dishes. The Lentil-Walnut Pate was a huge hit at a retirement party, the carrot cake crowned an after-theatre event and the poached pears were great at breakfast. I particularly appreciate the simplicity of the recipes. It's also good to have a friendly voice guiding me through tempeh and miso in such an assured way. I always knew they were healthy, but wasn't quite sure how to make the best of them. The orzo sounded so good I went out instantly and bought tempeh, and made that and the Roasted Butternut Squash dish for two old friends, who greatly enjoyed it. The recommendations in back were very useful--especially the Miso.For the first time in my life understand what a delicious and versatile food it can be. Highest Accolades!
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on September 30, 2001
This thoughtfully put together cookbook offers not only worthwhile recipes, but also a glimpse into a lifestyle not normally shared with outsiders. We have made the Pasta Puttanesca time and time again - satisfying for both vegetarians & carnivores alike. The Butternut-Sweet Potato Soup with the addition of ginger is delicious. The hints at the end of many recipes stop the cook from making mistakes. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the vignettes of life within the walls of an American Buddhist monastery. They describe a more deliberate, economical & peaceful existence than that of most Americans. Perhaps in these troubling times, we can all learn something from Buddhism and Mr. Farrey's 3 Bowls is an excellent place to start.
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