A seven-year-old incarnation of Buddha offers me his bowl for breakfast.
Cold rice, 2 fried eggs, 4 boiled ones, round tangerines crisscrossing yellow stripes of banana, a fried snake, a bunch of grapes, some spiced pork in a leaf and a piece of sponge cake.
The year is 1971 and I’m at a temple in northern Thailand. In this country it’s not uncommon for temples to offer shelter to pilgrims and travelers. If music is the universal language that needs no translation then food must run a close second. I am reminded of this as I ponder the layers of food offered to this young monk who walks around the village doing alms, taking whatever people can give plopped down in this round bamboo container. And that food offered to Buddha is now offered to me. Being vegetarian, how can I eat this fried snake or fragrant spiced pork wrapped neatly in a leaf? But how can I not? Food offered to the stranger is a warm sign of hospitality, a gesture of love and how people in the world communicate to welcome you through their doorway. Thoughts of this come back to me as we prepare our special issue on food. And it seems that food is on many people’s minds as the economy squeezes us into cracks and corners. The Wing Luke just opened a show on that very topic and how it relates to the community. And early next year, the Burke Museum over at the University of Washington will have a photography exhibit on how and what people around the globe eat for a week. As you sit at your own table and contemplate the steam that rises off the bowl, bring us with you and take a moment to reflect on what people in the Northwest have to say about this very important topic. Food is one of the most sacred things we can share and give each other. Thanks for setting down the chopsticks to read these words written about what nourishes us and frames our collective cultures.
– Alan Chong Lau
Arts Editor, International Examiner