The Promise of an Empty Bowl

When I visit a cookware store, I am usually drawn to the large deep serving bowls.  I am writing of the voluminous ones that could easily hold three pounds of cookie dough or enough pasta to feed the entire Chinese army.  I am especially fond of bowls with a Provençal flair that are hand painted with colorful and intricate designs.  If I really like a bowl, I will sometimes run an index finger around the outer rim of the vessel while thinking of the promise of its emptiness.

Doesn’t emptiness imply a lack of something?  Isn’t emptiness just the same thing as nothingness? On the contrary, while nothingness is a permanent state, emptiness is merely temporary.  

I believe that delicious possibilities can emerge through emptiness.   When a serving bowl is empty after a satisfying repast, I don’t think about the fact that the meal has ended.  Instead, I try to envision how and with what I am going to refill the bowl.  I am confident that it can be refilled, yet I acknowledge that it may not always be easy for me to put dinner on the table.  I may have to travel far and wide to find a unique ingredient and at other times I may have to stay at home all day to tend the stew.  Either way, it will be my hard work that fills that bowl because it certainly will not fill itself. Sometimes I’ve been fortunate enough to have allies who have helped me stir the pot, but there have been many times when I’ve been the sole person in the kitchen.

I frequently share the fruits of my culinary endeavors with others; I find that the echoes of laughter and human fellowship ringing off of a spacious bowl can fill it with something of far greater value than the more tangible sustenance sitting inside of it.  It is in these moments of nectarous conviviality over a warm meal that I have deeply understood the promise that lies within a large empty bowl which sits on a store shelf, waiting for someone to give it a home.


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