In November this year, hubby and I attended a meditation retreat at the beautiful and supremely peaceful Bodhi Khaya Retreat Centre outside Stanford. (I will post some photos as soon as I have a free moment between deadlines.)
I confess that, in addition to wondering whether I would be able to cope with the long hours of sitting meditation (think of stabbing sciatica, aching knees, asleep legs), I had been very concerned about the food that we would have to eat.
I know, I know…
Really, food should be the last thing one worries about when going on a meditation retreat. One should be thinking about more esoteric matters of the spirit, such as whether one will gain great insight into the inner workings of one’s mind, or whether one will finally have a breakthrough and actually succeed in quietly and peacefully meditating without one’s mind jumping around from one topic to the next like a bucking bronco at a rodeo.
Those noble spiritual goals were overshadowed by my far more mundane concerns about what we would be eating.
I had visions – frightening, I tell you – of receiving a slosh of lumpy porridge in the morning, with a mug of weak herbal tea (no sugar, no milk) to wash it down. Of nibbling my way – hungrily – through a lunchtime bowl of salad with dry crackers and butter, perhaps even a square of cheese, if we were lucky. Of receiving a plate of chewy rice, with a dollop of extremely spicy curried tomato-and-lentil sauce, for supper.
And no pudding all week.
In fact, I was so anxious about the whole thing, that I secretly stashed a bag of apples, a couple of nectarines, a large glass jar filled with my favourite muesli (nut-free, soya-free, dairy-free) – and a bar of dark chocolate – in the boot of our car. Just in case! And I made hubby promise me, Promise Me, that if I was overcome by a desperate need for foooooood, we would drive down into nearby Stanford or Gansbaai for a proper meal.
It didn’t make any difference that he reassured me, repeatedly, that the Best Chef in the World was doing the catering for us. He knew, because he had previously attended a longer retreat at Bodhi Khaya. So my mate wasn’t worried. In fact, he was really looking forward to a relaxing break, in peaceful and serene surroundings, with lovely people, and nourishing food – without the responsibility of preparing any meals or washing any dishes.
I, meanwhile, was fretting about my emergency rations. Particularly that bar of chocolate. I was definitely taking that.
Man, was reality ever different.
I actually have tears in my eyes when I think about the meals we ate. Yes, there are actually tears of joy and lumps of nostalgia in my throat.
Nina, Divine Nina, Nina the Heavenly Chef in charge of catering for us 10-15 hungry enlightenment-seeking souls for 9 whole days, is an absolute treasure. Not only did she assuage all my fears, and considerately take into account various food allergies by labelling potentially risky dishes, but she blew us all away with her creations. Every day, there was something different on the menu.
All her dishes were home-cooked masterpieces, lovingly prepared, with the freshest ingredients (yes, we actually saw them pick veggies and herbs from the garden outside the meditation room!). All of them were delicious, eat-your-heart-out, mouth-watering, taste-bud-tickling, scrumptilicious…. there are not enough words in the dictionary to express our delight. As we trooped from the meditation room across to the dining hall several times a day, our tummies were rumbling in happy anticipation.
And I was so smitten that I took photographs of each of her dishes.
It became a bit of a running joke among the group, because I always rocked up at the dining room with my camera slung over my shoulder. (Unfortunately, due to some serious, incomprehensible, terrible computer glitch, I lost all my photos and only managed to resurrect a portion of them.)
Now let me show you how we feasted, in this Special Tribute to Nina: