Monday: Kitchen Work
The kitchen is the center of comunity life at Green Gulch, as is the case in pretty much every religious community I've seen. Meals are shared and after the first ten minutes of silence you can start getting to know some of the residents as well as other guests that are staying for various lengths of time. After my last two retreats which were silent, this was a huge difference and a bit of a relief. I've been coming up to green gulch for about six months, and there are pleunty of people I recognize but haven't had an opporunity to talk to. Over the course of the week I made a lot of connections with people in the community over various meals, it's a wonderful moment when you hear the clackers that signal the end of the silent portion of the meal and everyone says good morning to each other all at once.
At any Soto temple the office of head cook is called the Tenzo, and it's a little more than just the executive chef, there is a text dedicated to the work of the Tenzo written by Dogen himself, the Tenzo Kyokun, also meal preperation starts with a small service in the Tenzo's office, with an inscence offering and a few bows by the Tenzo or Fukiten (the Tenzo's deputy, this term may only be used at Zen Center because there is literally one other web page with the words Tenzo and Fukiten on them). Once everyone has bowed in it's off to work, my first day I did some dishes and prepped some lettuce for salad later in the week. We were extra careful to be gentle to the slugs that we found in the lettuce, though they did end up in the compost.
One of the treats of working in the kitchen is that you end up seeing the results of your labour on the dinner table over the course of the week, more than one salad contained ingredients I prepped on Monday. As a beginner you will typically get some rather simple food prep or cleanup work, work periods are fairly quiet times with most communication in the kitchen consisting of the type of warnings you hear in working kitchens everywhere: "right behind you", "open oven", or more often just a quick "knife" as you walk by with any sharp implement. The instructions are to pay close attention to the task at hand, be slow and careful, ask questions if you're not sure where something goes or what the correct way is and most of all, enjoy it.
Stay tuned for the next existing installment: Compost