I expected strict rules based on a booklet I had read. I knew the food would be vegetarian, based on local produce, and free of onions, garlic and other spices. (Perfect for me!)
The first night we ate in silence on individual mats. Fortunately they served pasta and sandwiches along with Korean food. I chose carefully because we had to eat everything. At the end of the meal, the monks filled their empty food bowls with warm water, swished it around, and drank it. I sneakily wiped my bowl with a napkin and went to bed thirsty.
The next morning after at 3am wake-up drum, 108 bows in the Zen Room, morning chanting, and 1:20 of sitting zen, I enjoyed gruel in silence:
The gruel was a tasty mix of grains and pine nuts. Side dishes included peanut butter, soy sauce, kimchi'i, radishes, beans, and tofu.
I could barely stomach another meal in silence. I guess we were supposed to focus on our food. Instead, I yearned for social contact. Fortunately, after this meal and some chores we had a second breakfast. We shared lively conversation about movies and ate chocolate, homemade pizza, fruit, and tea. One monk made a Polish fruit-and-nut concoction to share.
Fortunately on Sundays the lunch was open to the community and thus very lively. The monks ate in silence at separate tables. Here was the monk spread (eaten with rice, of course):
Here is a view of the mens' table from the outside:
One thing missing was a drinking cup. If we didn't drink from our dirty bowls then we went thirsty. I know that in many countries people do not drink water with meals. Americans, though, are drinking water anywhere, all the time, these days.
Anyway, our meal included salad, Korean pancakes, side dishes, and rice:
We also ate pumpkin rice cakes:
I hope to return again in June or July!