Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ikebana and Cooking

There are a lot of similarities between ikebana and cooking.

Both use fresh materials. The materials should match and accomplish each other. For example, eggplant and basil are the perfect combination. If pumpkin and basil cooked together, it may taste strange. When arranging flowers, some are helping each other while others are fighting. The first two things to notice for a dish are its presentation and color, This is the same for a flower arrangement. Using the every day materials, a good chef could cook distinguish dishes; a good flower arranger can make eye catching arrangements using common floral materials. Vase is important for an arrangement, the china makes difference for a dish. Flowers will be arranged according to where to be placed and for whom, the dish will be cooked according to eater’s taste. A Shanghainese may not appreciate a spicy Sichuan dish, even that is cooked by a first class chef. Do you see the similarities here?

Few months ago, after I arranged flowers in a shallow vase, I rearranged the same materials in a tall vase. That is similar like “crab two ways” in cooking, except that is flower instead of crab.

In almost every Chinese family kitchen, there are some dry materials like dry mushrooms, dry bamboo shuts and so on. Many Chinese dishes uses dry mushrooms. Every Ikebana arranger keeps some dry materials as well. I always have few dry kiwi branches by hand. When there are left over dishes, we reheat them or add some new materials to make a new dish. I do the same with my ikebana. Few months ago, after I used dry itsumata branches, I kept them. When I had left over flowers from my arrangement, I added some passion flower vines and made a new arrangement.

I donate flower arrangements to the dancing studio where I learn dancing and my office lobby regularly, I recycle materials by re-matching and rearranging.

Kawako Takahashi sensei was a very talented ikebana artist from Sogetsu school. She past away peacefully in sleep a year ago at age of 92. She was the author of three books. The first one is a Japanese cooking book, the second one is a travel sketchbook, and the third one is about dinner table setting. Although none of the books is ikebana book, she combined ikebana in her table setting along with sand painting. I regret that I did not ask her insight about ikebana and cooking, I am sure that she would have a lot to say.

The most important common thing between arranging flowers and cooking is the mind. Both arts are the forms of meditation, one meditates to get his or her love and care into the flower arrangement and the dish while arranging or cooking.

After I shared my thoughts about this topic with my readers last summer, I received many responses. One of them is especially interesting:

“I enjoyed this particular article, and appreciated the cooking analogy. After the re-use comes the recycle. All my kitchen scraps go into compost bin. It will be very appropriate for all the flower arrangements when done. Perhaps you'd consider that?! ”

I think it concludes the discussion.

Enjoy the arrangements and Happy Monday!

In Friendship Through Flowers,


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