Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Korean Soap Opera

One recent evening, I walked through the door and found Zen Master and Zen Mum sitting on the couch, their eyes glued to the TV.

I peeked at the screen and saw that they were watching, again, their most favorite Korean soap opera.

Unfortuntely there’s no English translation for the show, so I can’t even begin to tell you the name of it.  But I can certainly show you.

The name of this Korean show is the name of the lady on the cover of the DVD set.  The story was about the lady who was a cook in the Imperial Palace and due to political intrigue, got her butt kicked out and after some time, came back as a medically trained doctor to assume a closer position to the King and the Queen.  In the end, bad guys go to jail, good guys rule and she marries her true love.

The guy on the cover of the DVD is her true love.

Now although this drama is a Korean-based story, the marvel that is technology provided Mandarin translation on the DVD.

So Zen Master and Zen Mum can watch it to their hearts’ content.

Which they have, many, many, many times.

I lost count how many times they’ve watched that show.

“You’re watching this again?”  I asked them.

“It’s a great movie.”  said Zen Mum.

“It’s not a movie.”  I said.  “It’s a soap opera.  I thought you don’t like soap opera.”

“It’s not a soap opera.”  Zen Master said, sniffing delicately.  “It’s a great movie with many chapters.”

“Isn’t that what a soap opera is?”  I asked.

But the cool thing about this movie/soap opera is the cooking scenes.  The movie actually used an authentic Korean chef to train the actors to cook convincingly on the show.

And Zen Master and Zen Mum actually learned new ingredients and new ways of enhancing flavors in some dishes. 

Zen Mum started crumbling toasted seaweed on our fried rice dishes now, which actually made it quite tasty.

Zen Master last year started experimenting with some Chinese melons as soup base, which he perfected now.

All this from a soap opera.

Now, if only it had English translation on it, then I can finally jump on the bandwagon.

Oh well.

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Something Fishy Going On

So I walked into the kitchen one day recently, and was almost bowled over by the stench in there.

“Damn, Zen Master, that stinks!”  I said as I pinched my nose closed with my fingers and approached him.  He was standing by the sink, washing something God-awful.  “What are you doing?”

“It is smelly, isn’t it?”  Zen Master grinned at me.  “I’m going to pan-fry some fresh sardines.”

“Why?”  I asked as I peeked over his shoulder into the kitchen sink.  “What are you making?”

“Soup base.”  He replied simply. 

Turns out that Zen Master was going to pan-fry these sardines and then dry them out.  When we make soup, these morsels will be added to the soup base, enriching its flavor.

We usually just buy the dried sardines from the store, but Zen Master wanted homemade instead.

So after he cleaned out the innards from these foul-smelling things, he threw them onto the dutch oven and slowly cooked them.

And after awhile, the putrid, fishy smell gave way to something really tantalizing that had me mmmming.

Which prompted Zen Master to tell me about a story about Guan Yin.

According to folklore, raw fish was quite putrid smelling and very quick to spoil once caught.  Because the fish spoiled faster than the villagers could cook it, the people starved to death. 

So Guan Yin graced the fish.

The Chinese translation of what She said in gracing the fish is completely paraphrased here, since I’m no scholar:  the foul-smelling stench will become aromatic and fragrant when the fish is cooked. 

And the people didn’t starve as they now had food to eat.

“Is that really true?”  I asked Zen Master as I sniffed the yummy yummy cooked fish.

He only gave me a dry look.  “It’s called a folklore for a reason, you know.”


Methinks something fishy is going on here.

Get it?

Something fishy?


Anyone out there?

Sally in the Zen, I am; therefore, I must pun.

Thank you very much.

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Milk Kick

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I don’t really have a favorite supermarket.  We tend to go visit and wander around everywhere because, you know, it has food.  Rows and rows of colorful, bright, fragrant edibles!

And very pretty, fragrant flowers.



With Zen Master now into his milk kick, with his two big glasses of milk a day, he’s starting to pay attention to other things in the world of dairy.

Like organic.

“Is it really organic?”  He asked as he slid his glasses on and peered closer at the sign that says ORGANIC milk.  “How do we really know if it’s organic?”

I shrugged.  “Maybe that’s why they put that ORGANIC sticker on it.”

But Zen Master persisted.  “But is it really organic?”

“Why don’t we keep the receipt, just in case?”  I suggested.  “Try it out and if you’re happy with it, I bet they’ll give us back our money.  No big deal.”

Zen Mum peeked into the grocery cart.  “Isn’t milk…milk?

Excellent question.

Inquiring minds want to know.

So as soon as we got home, Zen Master broke into the milk and poured himself a full cup of the organic milk.

Zen Mum and I crowded around Zen Master, waiting for him to stop pondering and musing and just spit it out.

But rather than waiting for his verdict, I grabbed a mug and sampled some for myself.

It was cool, quite refreshing.

It was smooth and quite creamy.

It was..milk.

And I promptly got the runs.

Yes, my name is Sally and I forgot that I’m a little lactose-intolerant.

Oh well.

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Crow like a Rooster

Zen Master is always telling me stories of his childhood, growing up on a farm in rural China.  He would tell me about the chickens in his yard, his pet goose playing with his pet cat and his pet dog.  He would relive for me moments of time from his memories of his home.

So, a few years ago, I brought home two small black travel alarm clocks, one for Zen Master and one for Zen Mum.

Because these cute little things could be set up to coo-coo like a cuckoo clock or crow like a rooster.

Kinda like this little guy.

I mean, how cute is that?

“I haven’t heard a rooster crow since China!”  Zen Master replied as he watched me fiddle with the programming on the alarm clock.  “Are you sure it sounds like a rooster?”

Always a doubting Thomas, Zen Master.

But he took to the alarm clock as soon as that darn thing crowed.

So I programmed both alarm clocks to crow.

How cute would that be, to have two roosters crowing in the morning?


Okay, now that we’ve had them for a number of years, I can say…

…they’re not that damn cute anymore.

What the heck was I thinking?

Every morning those darn roosters shriek and I want to kill them!

I want to throw my shoe at them and make them shut up!

There’s actually no volume control and I know that my neighbors can hear them!

When you don’t push the snooze button on them right away, those damn roosters would crow louder and faster!


“Don’t even think about it.”  Zen Master warns me whenever he sees that gleam in my eye.  “Those are my roosters.”

“They’re alarm clocks, not a roosters.”

“I like them, so keep your paws off my roosters.”

Yeah, now I think twice whenever I come across something “cute”.

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Roquefort Blue Cheese

The first cheese that Zen Master ever encountered in his youth in China was blue cheese.

“It stank!”  He recalled when a friend shared it with him.  “It was like stinky socks!  Why in the world would anyone eat this stuff?!”

Because he wanted to know what it tasted like, he tried it.

And promptly gagged and threw up.

This is one of his most vivid memories from his younger years.  And every time we go grocery shopping, when we pass the Cheese section, he would always peek at all the wonderful assortment of cheeses and point out always the blue cheeses.

So while we were shopping at Trader Joe’s over the weekend, Zen Master, Zen Mum and I picked up the Roquefort Blue Cheese.

OMG!!  The MOLD!  The MOLD!

Would you LOOK at that MOLD?!

“That’s nothing!”  Zen Master said as he eyed it before taking a deep whiff of it.  “The one I had was moldier and smellier!”

The SMELL!!  OMG, the STENCH!!

OMG!!  The TASTE!!


It was pretty damn tasty!

Me:  UMMM….YUMMM…..SLURP…..DROOL…..must…have…more…moldy…cheese….

Zen Master:  SLURP…UMMMMMHUNMMUUM…..good…cheese....

Zen Mum:  YUCK!!…ACK!!…GAG!!…BLAH!…disgusting

And I flew over to rescue those precious, precious moldy morsels from her plate before she could chuck them in the trash.


Who would have thought that something made out of raw sheep milk in a limestone cave would be so damn tasty?

According to Wikipedia:  “Before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, it was common in country districts for shepherds to apply this cheese to wounds in order to avoid gangrene.

Um, eewww.

Ok.  I think that’s enough information about Roquefort Blue Cheese for me.

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Red T-Shirt

“Do we have a red T-shirt anywhere?”  Zen Master asked dourly, as he wandered from my closet to his closet, and then into Zen Mum’s closet.

“I think we have a red T-shirt somewhere.”  I watched as he came out of the closet and started rummaging through his drawers.  “What do you need a red shirt for?”

Zen Master doesn’t wear red.

“I have to wear something red to work for Valentine’s Day.”  His words were muffled as he went down on hands and knees and peeked under the bed to pull out a drawer from underneath.  “Nonsense.  Nothing but a bunch of hooey.”

“Aw, isn’t that cute?”  Zen Master was the only male in the all-women kitchen crew at the public school that he worked in. 

“No,”  he snarked as he finished going through the drawer and stuck it back underneath the bed.  “This is complete crap!  Valentine’s Day should be for other people.  Why do I have to wear red?  I don’t even like red!”

“Well, it’ll match your face right now.”  I murmured and got an evil glare from him.

“Here’s my shirt that you can wear.”  Zen Mum came in, holding up her burgurdy T-shirt.  “I don’t have to wear red.”

Zen Mum’s burgurdy T-shirt:  an item from Sears for a few bucks.

Zen Master wearing Zen Mum’s clothing on Valentine’s Day:  PRICELESS.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Going to the Library

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I were going to the library yesterday. 

It was a lovely Saturday morning.  I was driving, Zen Master laughing from the passenger seat and Zen Mum chit-chattering from the back behind him.  The sky was overcast with gray clouds, but bits and pieces of clear blue sky were peeking through every now and then.

If it wasn’t for the strong cold wind, it would have been a much lovelier morning.

We were driving on a local road, meandering through our neighborhood, our supermarket, the dry cleaners from which we had just dropped off some ripe clothes that needed cleaning.

And I didn’t see that car until it was almost on top of us.

It came out of nowhere, from our right. 

You know how they say that everything just slows down until the moment of impact? 

Well, I can vouch that this certainly happens.

When that car came at us from our right, it was heading straight for Zen Master.  I saw in that one moment of clarity that it was going to hit our car, smashing into my father.  I heard his bellows of alarm, Zen Mum’s shouts of surprise.  We were going to get hit.

Until my left hand turned my steering wheel to the left, swerving us around and away from that car. 

From that moment of impact.

I had crossed the median strip on that one-way local street, and there were no oncoming cars in that lane in that moment.  And as soon as I had crossed it, I went right back into our lane and slammed to a complete stop.

I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that car having also stopped some distance behind us.  They were looking at us, stunned and shocked as we were. 

What did I feel at that moment?  My hands trembling on the steering wheel. 

What did I hear at that moment?  No terrifying sounds of a car crash.  No heart-wrenching sounds of pain from my father and mother.

What did I think at that moment?  I looked up at the clear blue sky and thanked God.

Then the light turned green in front of us, and I slowly continued on our way to the library.

God…Guan Yin…

I thank you for that one moment of absolute clarity and only by your Grace are we still here and in one piece.

And as soon as we got home after the trip to the library, I went straight into the kitchen.

And fried us some homemade zucchini bites.

It’s the right thing to do.

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Fresh Young Coconut

I believe in trying most things at least once.  This is not just my personal motto.

It’s also Zen Master’s.

One night when I came home, I went into the kitchen and stopped short when I caught sight of this.

What the heck is this?

“Fresh Young Coconut” said the sticker.

So what did I do with it?

I grabbed the fresh young coconut with both hands and shook it.

And what did I hear?


Zen Master walked in and saw me shaking that thing like nobody’s business.

“Isn’t it supposed to have water in it?”  I asked as I shook it for all I was worth.  “They do this all the time in the movies.  And how come there’s no hair on it?  Isn’t a coconut supposed to be round with a hard brown hairy shell?”

He took it out of my hands.  “It’s a young coconut.  They removed the shell before they sell it.”

“What about the water?”

“It’s in there.”  He went out to the sink.  “Let me show you.”

Zen Master grabbed the chopping knife and started hacking away at it.

“Why did you get a coconut?”  I asked as I peeked over his shoulder as he hacked, hacked at the thing.

“Why not?  It was on sale.”  He finally snapped the top off the coconut.  “Have you ever seen fresh coconut meat before?”

And of course I shook my head.  Except for the sweetened coconut flakes sold in supermarkets, I never really thought about where the actual thing came from.

Until now.

And it was filled to the brim with coconut water.  After Zen Master poured it out, he cracked the coconut in half.

“That’s it?”  I peered down into the round container of a coconut.  “That’s all the coconut meat?”

“What part of young coconut don’t you understand?”  Zen Master rolled his eyes. 

And it turns out that when I Googled it, he was right.  Young coconuts have jelly coconut meat, and after some time, maybe a few weeks, the jelly would eventually harden to the normal stuff that I’m used to seeing on TV and in supermarkets.

As for the coconut water, it was tasty.  Slightly sweet and quite refreshing.

After sampling both the jelly and the water, I was impressed. 

And in the mood for coconut macaroons. 

The End.

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