⟨ Wabi Sabi ⟩

The tofu-like aesthetics

Insignificance and fragility that shed light upon the grandeur of the infinite world

Word and Photorgaphy / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

被朋友問到若人生下半場,只能吃三種食物,會挑那三種。想了良久,卻只想到豆腐。

素白而清淡的豆腐,熱吃時造成湯豆腐。湯非上湯,而只是熱水,煮好了豆腐沾點醬汁,無法將它的美味說得天花亂墜,不過就是樸素得不能再樸素的黃豆香。吃冷豆腐時,我甚至不沾醬油,只灑點鹽,頂多多放一小團芥辣。不管湯豆腐或冷豆腐,朋友都認為淡而無味,在飯桌上可有可無,說它既不適合配飯,也不能下酒,我也實在難以反駁。只是,當想到餘下數十年的光陰裡,每天三頓均會出現在餐桌上的食品時,比起色香味烈的佳肴美食,還是覺得色淡味清的豆腐較為合適。

強烈璀燦的終將消散,平淡尋常的則緩緩累積。因為味淡,於是味蕾能細嘗到烹煮它的水,因為外表平凡,於是內心有足的餘裕細看映在水裡的光影。然後,因為水而感受到河流與大海;因為光影而感受到窗外雲朵與太陽。微小軟弱的,卻照見世界壯大與無垠。

某天跟朋友聊起佗寂的美學時,忽然想到了豆腐。或許佗寂美學,也是一種弱的美學,一種關於餘裕,關於照見物外的美學。

My friend recently asked if I could only live with three types of food in the second half of my life, what would they be? I dwell on the question for so long, and the only kind of food that I came up with was tofu.

 

Tofu is dull in color and light in taste. Having tofu served in hot water instead of broth, then dip it in a sauce to enjoy the pleasant fragrance of bean. It would be quite inaccurate to say it is impressively delicious as it is, after all, a subtle dish. When having chilled tofu, I don’t even dip it in soy sauce. The only thing I would add to the chilled tofu is a pinch of salt or perhaps a dash of wasabi. My friends found both the hot and chilled tofu boring, neither do they go well with rice nor with drinks. It was rather difficult for me to argue against their thoughts, as this is a reasonable impression. However, when trying to imagine what kind of food I will enjoy for my remaining tens of years, I genuinely prefer the subtle essence and look of tofu rather than something colorful with a strong flavor. 

Luxury and excitement do not last; what remains is ordinary composure. The light flavor allows us to also carefully taste the water used to cook the tofu. The dull appearance of the dish can even give us the tranquility to observe the light reflecting on the water surface. Water reminds us of rivers and oceans, the reflection of light connects us with the cloud and the sun outside of the window. Insignificance and fragility can surprisingly shed light upon the grandeur of the infinite world.  

One day, I suddenly thought of tofu when talking about wabi-sabi with a friend. I guess it is because wabi-sabi is also representing the aesthetics of fragility; it deals with the question of adequacy, and it sees beyond the superficial presence.