Bowl Of Comfort

Text and photography by Denise Hung

JJ – Full
V (2014)

Musing over a bowl of beige oatmeal, cupping my hands and embracing the warmth. The rich sunlight glazes across the wooden dining table, reflecting drizzled honey and freshly sliced apples overflowing from my creamy porridge. I sat quietly, enjoying the slow break of dawn while nourishing my body.

There is something tender about eating with bowls. It detaches us from the busy life, the hustle of footsteps and staggering thoughts, leaving you to enjoy the meal at its finest. I believe in having honest food in appropriate manners. Grandma’s white china with blue flora designs for watercress and chicken soup; a rimless porcelain deep enough for a late-night pasta; small stoneware bowls filled with roasted nuts shared over a lovely bottle of Saint Emilion wine. A good ambience, a good aesthetic and the right moment.

bowl of comfort vessel

I had realised food served in bowls is mostly filled with comforting treats: rice, pasta, potatoes, hummus, ice cream, or pudding. It instinctively fills out the body and becomes self-soothing. I particularly appreciate my mother’s fried vermicelli on weekends. She blooms the vermicelli while stir-frying sliced cabbage, big sweet onions, bean sprouts and sautéed shitake mushrooms. She drains the rice noodles and uses elongated wooden chopsticks to toss everything together; completing the dish with a dash of dark soy sauce. It is almost too plain and light, but that is why I enjoy it the most. I can ask for a second serving without feeling guilty except for keeping mum on her feet, which is an act of motherly love she adores.

bowl of comfort vessel

Comfort comes with contentment, but I find both with an empty bowl. Much like a Buddhist monk travelling with a hand-welded metallic alms bowl, living on a few meals enough to satisfy his body’s need. It need not hold much food but is sufficient for meditation or to continue on the next spiritual path. Perhaps it is the minimalist look of a joyful meal nestled in a shallow vessel that is humbling. I regard a clean bowl, open to endeavors and spontaneity, yet grounded and subtle. A constant custom of emptying, cleaning and refilling, renews the mind from personal revivals.

Read more in N˚5: Arrival.