Tuesday, January 20, 2009

La ba porridge

I was hanging out at home with my dad when the phone rang. "Okay, yes, mm hmm," I heard him say, and then he hung up. An hour or so later I heard the doorbell. The folks at the Fo Guang Shan temple—a Buddhist organization that my parents sometimes help, but are not affiliated with—had made a delivery of two large containers of vegetarian la ba porridge. They didn't do this only for our household, either, but for a long list of people around the city.
Not knowing anything about the tradition, I consulted The Google and found that la ba porridge is typically eaten on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month on the traditional Chinese calendar. It's not only a date that typically signifies the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration, but for Buddhists it's the date Sakyamuni, the first Buddha, is believed to have attained enlightenment. (There's a pretty good explanation of the history here.)

Can't say I'm religious, so for me the congee was mostly just congee. I heated up a bowl and found it chunky with ingredients, tasting both hearty and healthy but just a little bland. It's probably something I should eat more of.

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