Monday, September 15, 2014

Buddhist Blessing on Burnet

Sap's on Burnet....yummmmmm

Yesterday I was honored to be invited to the Buddhist blessing at Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine, the newest location at Burnet Road and 2222. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what to expect, and we had foolishly made plans to eat afterwards (we would later realize the folly of that decision). I’ve been to Thailand four times, so I have a working knowledge of Thai Buddhism and the rules about interacting with the monks. I even wore long pants! And it doesn’t take a genius to imagine how a restaurateur would want his new venture blessed by a priest from his religion, so I had a basic framework to operate within. When we got there Sap greeted us warmly and told us that if “it got too weird”, to feel free to step into the adjoining room. Now I was intrigued. How weird could it get?

The Chef and the Artiste

The kids at the temple in Northern Thailand

Our old pal Chef Emil Vogely and his better half, the effervescent Judy Jensen, were there also, and we all glommed together for the occasion. They will leave for Thailand in several weeks so that Judy can install the 9th of a series of 10 temple mural panels that she is reproducing for a small Buddhist temple in Northern Thailand; murals that were damaged in the earthquake several years back. The pictures I’ve seen of her work are remarkable; she does reverse paintings on glass. It’s god’s work.


The Blessing Ceremony

The monks blessing the meal they are fixing to dine on....note the two on the right are twins!

There was a pretty good-sized group of folks in attendance, and I knew my share of them. We all sat down and the monks got started with the chants; we of course did not know the Thai refrains that the majority of the crowd was call-and-responsing back at the monks, but we did know how to wai with palms joined, so we weren’t complete buffoons. The chanting was rhythmic, and I really got into the beat and cadence of it, zoning-out for a little while there. Maybe it was spiritual, maybe it was hunger? Who knows? About 45 minutes after it started, the monks rolled up the white rope that they were collectively holding, which started at the Buddha image, went to the ceremonial candle, through all of their hands, and into the golden urn. Monks eat first, so an incredible spread was arranged on the table before them, as they went around the restaurant with Holy water, sprinkling everything and everyone, blessing them as they went.

The food....leaf to right....table 1

The food ....left to right.....table 2

The food....left to right....table 3 (and table 4, I didn't get as shot of, but it had mass quantities of steamed jasmine rice, a 4-gallon pot of pud ped ga prao, and a huge salad)

The food.....table 5

The food....table 6

Once the monks returned and started eating, we got the high sign to attack the four tables loaded down with mind-freakingly delicious treats. The array was too large to detail, but know this much: every single dish that I tasted was soul-satisfyingly good. The only thing I passed on was the one dish with the little cubes of congealed pork blood. I don’t do filters, liver, or blood. But I loved the funky fermented bamboo shoot curry with chicken; definitely an acquired taste, but one that I acquired a long time back. There was also a fiery Southern curry that blew me away. It was all great, and really good to see an old friend’s newest venture get the okay from the higher spiritual powers, while getting to chat with a bunch of old friends. A very satisfying way to spend a Sunday morning: monks, friends, food, and a big blessing for all of it.

Mick Vann © 

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