nabokov’s sandwiches

Perhaps due to my own dietary struggles, I’ve always been fascinated by what others eat, especially creative or spiritually advanced people. Maybe I believe that there is a direct correlation between someone’s spiritual or creative achievements and what they eat. Either the food produced the state of mind, or the state of mind in a sense dictated the diet. In either case, I love the little details. Take this, again from Eido Tai Shimano Roshi’s introduction to the book Endless Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa, “Even at Ryutaku-ji, Monk Soen went his own way…His strict diet, which he had devised for himself while living in his hut on Mount Dai Bosatsu, made it difficult for him to take his meals with the other monks. He ate no cooked food. When traveling by train or boat, he took no meals in restaurants and bought no prepared food; he would pick up banana peels and apple cores others had thrown away, wash them, and save them for his meals.” This was the diet of one of the towering figures in the transmission of Zen Buddhism to the West. Or I’ve heard the story of a Korean Zen master, who, when on an isolated retreat in the forest, ate nothing but boiled pine needles, so much so that his skin turned a peculiar shade of green. When Vladimir Nabokov was living in Cambridge, MA during the 40’s and cataloging butterflies at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Biology, he used to pack a “flask of milk and a few sandwiches” for his lunch. First, I love the phrase “flask of milk”, but I have always wondered what was in those sandwiches. I’d like to find out and make my lunch out of that same, bright stuff.


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