My guess is that when most people think about Zen the last thing they think about is a waffle. My guess is that very few people even think about cooking when they are thinking about Zen. For me, cooking is just one of the many ways that I work through all the programming and rules I have consciously and unconsciously agreed to in life. It is through the acknowledgment of the existence of the rules, but also the willingness to not limit myself to them, which allows me to find the Zen in cooking. It is when I tap into my intuitive creativity and my ability to express myself through my cooking that I am able to move beyond the boundaries and rules, experience, and create in a way I am not able to otherwise. I literally chop my way through barriers.
As I was explaining this to a friend of mine the other day, she asked me if I had experienced this when I made waffles for Zoë’s surprise birthday party a few years ago. As I thought about it, I came to realize that it was through my waffle creations that day which I experienced Zen. I guess I should explain. Zoë has a passion for waffles. However, she is addicted to the buy the recipe Bisquick waffles. I have that recipe memorized I have made them for her so many times. I on the other hand could see waffles moving beyond the basic waffle. So for Zoe’s birthday a few years go, I had three bowls of waffle batter ready for our guests.
The first bowl was the traditional Bisquick recipe:
2 cups Bisquick
2 tbsp oil
1 1/3 cup milk
Mix, pour, and voila – waffles.
Then I decided to try something different. I had been inspired by a recipe for ricotta pancakes and so decided to add some ricotta cheese to my waffle batter. I am not quite sure how much I added (maybe 1 cup) and I had blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and peaches that I could sprinkle on for those who were willing to try my fruity ricotta waffles.
I on the other hand was in the mood for something Mexican that afternoon, so I added some shredded cheese, diced chilies, and salsa to the waffle mix. I had to make sure I greased the waffle iron well for these, but they were so amazingly good.
We had all kinds of toppings for these waffles as well including three kinds of ice cream, syrup, whip cream, cherries, fresh fruit, maple syrup, butter, and sour cream.
Since then I have continued to create a diversity of savory waffles for myself. Zoë continues to be a traditional waffle woman. My most recent creation was the pizza waffle with some shredded mozzarella cheese and diced pepperoni. I can dip the pieces in a little spaghetti sauce on the side if I want.
Waffles have even been used as a new form of bread. I have used them to make ice cream sandwiches and even grilled cheese sandwiches. Waffles are still awesome with butter and syrup, but they can also be used as a blank canvas on which to create a diversity of dishes that range from sweet to savory.
Waffles have enabled me to move beyond the cookbook and in keeping with the Zen philosophy; I have become my own teacher. I still draw upon the recipes of others as tools, but I no longer regard them as the authorities, which I must adhere to without question or adaptation.