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Ko Den, Ku Shin

Winter 2013
by Ko Den, Ku Shin

This year, when I began to think about my Winter Letter, I stepped into the god realm of pretension. I knew I had great wisdom to bestow on everyone. But as I started writing, I kept getting stuck. I wrote a first paragraph about six times. I started looking for excuses to not sit down and write. I couldn't work on the letter because I couldn't print a copy because we needed a new cable. I couldn't write because I had to go to Costco. And so it went. Luckily in all this procrastination I was able to find a little clarity. Bestowing great wisdom is not the way. What I can do is offer something.

This year I offer you a recipe for a vegetable broth and a recommendation for a book.

First, the Recipe

Image Credit: Yao Xiang Shakya

It is from a cookbook titled One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz, and it is for Magic Mineral Broth ™. (The recipe is at the end of this letter.) You can use it as a base for soup or with a pot roast or just by itself. It took me quite awhile to consider even making this broth. I read the recipe and was beset by countless hindrances: "It is too hard to do. I'm not really a cook, what do I know about broths? It takes too long to cook. I have other more important things to do. It is a pain to remember all the ingredients. It will take a special trip to the store and I'm very busy." And on and on it went, but for some reason, I decided to squeeze making broth into a busy day. As I worked on it, I found that my hindrances were true! The broth is hard to make. All the ingredients are not readily available. Simmering it takes a long, long time and the final straining of the vegetables is just plain difficult. And trying to fit the broth into a busy day left me frazzled.

This year during the long Thanksgiving weekend, I gave myself the gift of a day to make Magic Mineral Broth ™ Instead of being frantic while the ingredients simmered away, I contemplated the hindrances that come up when I do something new. I remembered to savor the earthy smells of celery, potato, carrot, onion and sniffed often to find the smell of the juniper berries! I didn't answer the phone or check my e-mail. I reminded myself, there were no short cuts, and just entered into the work. Just before I packaged the broth into freezer bags, I took a little taste. The taste was full of grace and tasted just like health.

Second, the Book

The book is from a TimeLife Series, The Great Ages of Man: Historic India by Lucille Schulberg, 1968. I felt a little silly getting this book from the library. It was too old. It was from TimeLife. It was too simplistic. But then I remembered that I did not know anything about the history of India. So I took the plunge and read the book. In addition to gaining a broad view of the history of India, there was a short section in the chapter on Hinduism that I have pondered for many months.

According to the Laws of Manu, society at the time of creation….men passed through four chronological stages of life...so the life of man was ideally divided into four distinct stages. The stages were those of student, house-holder, hermit and wanderer….The duty of hermit was to leave the busy world, retire to a forest hut…live simply, eating only nuts and fruits, studying the Vedas and treating gently who ever came to him for help or advice.

My pondering is about the Hermit stage. I know Liz and I are moving away from the householder stage. Our life is simpler with more time spent on maintaining and repairing than in getting new and better. We are not down to just fruits and nuts, but we do take the time to cook and eat good food. We continue to do our Wall Chant and Liz occasionally adds a new picture and a new reflection. There is one chant we come back to time and time again:

Do not do yourself the disservice to think there is something more important to do than what you are doing right now. (Cheri Hurber, The Key)

So for this holiday season…cook something you think is difficult and read something you think is silly. And ponder what you can learn about yourself in this doing.

The Recipe -- Magic Mineral Broth ™


6 unpeeled carrots with half the green tops cut into thirds
2 unpeeled medium onions cut into chunks
1 leek, both white and green parts cut into thirds
1 bunch celery, including the heart, cut into thirds
4 unpeeled cloves garlic, halved
½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 medium red potatoes with skins on, quartered
2 Japanese or Hannah's yams or sweet potatoes with skins on, quartered
1 Garnet yam with skin on quartered
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 (6 by 1-inch) strip of Kombu
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
4 whole allspice or juniper berries


1. In a 12-quart stockpot, combine all the ingredients. Fill the pot to 2 inches below the rim with water, cover and bring to a boil. [Note: I do not own a 12-quart stockpot but use a 6 quart one. If you use a smaller pot, cut the vegetables into smaller pieces and add more water while it simmers. The smaller pot makes a more concentrated broth that you can dilute it or not when you finally use it.]

2. Remove the lid, decrease the heat to low, and simmer a minimum of 2 hours. [Note: I simmer it for 3-4 hours] As the stock simmers some of the water will evaporate; add more if the vegetables begin to peek out. Simmer until the full richness of the vegetables can be tasted.

3. Strain the stock using a large coarse-mesh strainer (remember to use a heat resistant container underneath). Bring to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. [I do not own a coarse-mesh strainer so I use the steaming liner that came with a large pot. I put the cooked vegetables into this and mash them with a rubber spatula. Then I put the mashed vegetables and the cooking water in to my food processor and blend them together. I do this in many small batches. By this time I am working with three pots. The final mixture goes back into my large pot and gets a final a stir and taste. I sometimes add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a bit of salt. And sometimes I add the lemon and salt when I finally use the broth. I put the broth into 1-quart freezer bags, squeeze out excess air, make sure the bag is completely sealed and put them in the freezer.]

The Book

Just in case you want to ponder on the fourth Stage, the Wanderer... here's a bit more from the book:

After a period of calm self-examination and meditation, the hermit was expected to acquire a dense of detachment from the world and its pleasures and to yearn for spiritual perfection. At this time, whenever it came, he was to relinquish even the few comforts of the forest and enter the final stage of life. He was now to become a sannyasi—a homeless, possessionless wanderer and beggar.

In the sannyasi stage of life a man was the ideal ascetic. He had no worldly attachments, except perhaps to the begging bowl that supplied his one meal a day. To be a sannyasi meant ignoring every physical need and every mental distraction. For the purpose of the final stage of life was to cleanse the soul of desire so completely that it could attain moksha, release from the cycle of rebirths...

Humming Bird