Nowadays we are spoiled by choice when it comes to food, with cuisines and ingredients from all over the world being available on our doorstep almost instantly. Although this has enriched our culture and heightened our passion for food, it comes at a cost to the environment. Transporting produce across long distances, preparing complex dishes using multiple stoves and energy-consuming appliances and using speciality ingredients that require specific processing and packaging all leave a significant carbon footprint. By practising shojin ryori, you can reduce your impact on the environment whilst achieving a greater sense of well being.
When preparing shojin ryori, each ingredient is cooked simply and gently with the intention of drawing our its natural flavour. Nothing is wasted and every part of the ingredient is used. The cuisine largely consists of grains, vegetables, soya beans and soya-based products such as tofu and tempeh. Strong flavours and seasoning are avoided. Each dish should be nutritionally balanced and based on seasonal ingredients with tastes and colours that complement each other.
Some shojin ryori recipes require extensive effort and concentration such as making sesame paste by grinding sesame seeds with a pestle and mortar. Other methods of cooking include blanching, fermenting and pickling. When vegetables are boiled only a small amount of water is used with a small amount of salt to draw out the vegetable’s natural flavour. Many of the processes involved in shojin ryori, particularly grinding with a pestle and mortar, can be meditative. Every part of the cooking process is carried out mindfully and with care. Mindful cooking and eating are key components of a balanced and healthy life.
With so many different types of foods available at the click of a button, many of us have lost touch with basic, honest cooking practises. Preparing straightforward, seasonal and nourishing meals is the healthiest option for our bodies and the planet. Simple food is easy to digest and making meals from scratch can be therapeutic and rewarding. By adopting the principles of shojin ryori you can establish a better connection with the foods naturally available to you and their effect on your body, enabling you to foster a more sustainable way of cooking and eating.
+ Words: Yasmin Razzaque
Yasmin Razzaque is a Biochemistry graduate with a keen interest in health and nutrition. She uses her scientific knowledge and ability to critically analyse research to write articles about healthy and sustainable eating and wellbeing.