It will come as no shock to anyone who knows me that my hero is HH The 14th Dalai Lama. My respect and even fondness for him doesn’t stem from idol worship of a reincarnated Buddha, but for a man who has endured serious hardship and still manages to promote compassion and mindfulness; while maintaining a curiosity as sharp as an infant’s and a sense of humour that is wildly contagious. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and has been commended far and wide as an environmentalist (before being Green meant anything more than changing colour or having a jealous streak).
Thanks to a surprise gift from my Ban Chéile I had the great pleasure of sitting in the audience when the Dalai Lama visited Ireland in 2011 (see the pic above). All of the characteristics of the man that I admire were there for me to see first hand. After all how many people have come face-to-face with their hero and are sadly disappointed?
When we meet for dinner I’m certain I would steer clear of the heavier questions I would like to have answered – like how does he tally his intellectual prowess with the religious elements of his belief system – and try to keep our conversation centred around mindfulness, psychology and environmental issues. I can’t subscribe to the “magical thinking” elements of any religion, but I do believe there is enough evidence that most religions can offer some valuable insights into important elements of life and living. The philosophical basis for Buddhism resonates with my own and the practice of mindfulness, linked to Buddhist psychology documented for over 2,500 years, is a basis for an ethical and effective life.
Much to many people’s surprise the Dalai Lama is not a vegetarian. He has been widely criticised for not being a strict vegetarian but Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t have the same tradition of total avoidance of meat that South Asian Buddhism has – maybe that’s a factor in the growth of Tibetan Buddhism over other schools, who knows. Buddhism doesn’t ban eating meat, it bans killing animals and so a fine line is drawn whereby once you don’t order the meet in advance. and lead to the killing of the animal directly, then consuming already slaughtered animals is not an offence (once you can live with the fact the animal did suffer – but suffering is the normal state of existence according to the Buddha!). The Dalai Lama was a vegetarian in the 1960s but a bout of ill health (hepatitis) resulted in his doctors insisting he eat at least some meat to maintain a balanced diet. All of this is by way of explaining why I didn’t steer completely clear of meat in my menu. I did however decide to keep it simple (I am dining with a monk after all).
The meal itself would have to be such that it would appeal to His Holiness and no doubt I would want to introduce him to some Irish influences (minus the inevitable alcohol content). Here is my menu-
- Starter: Traditional Irish Nettle Soup made with the tips from nettles, potato, leek and cream.
- Main Course: No points for guessing Irish Stew. I’d have to leave out any hint of alcohol but at least it wouldn’t have to suffer the shame of being made with a meat substitute. I would accompany the stew with Colcannon made with potatoes and kale.
- Dessert: It’s nearly impossible to find a traditional Irish dessert that doesn’t have alcohol as a key ingredient (maybe there’s something we need to learn in that?) and so I’ve decided to provide a simple apple crumble with fresh Irish whipped cream.
How would you handle a ‘Come Dine with Me’ opportunity with your hero?
* Ban-Cheile means Wife/Spouse/Life Partner in the Irish Language. A literal translation would be “woman I’m together with” or thereabouts.