Upon leaving a quiet reflection time at the temple where Cambodian Buddhism began, the monk sitting ‘guard’ at the door stopped us and made some general conversation. He soon asked us what we were carrying in our bag and as we showed him the beautiful cookbook we just purchased from the Friends’ Restaurant (www.mithsamlanh.org/) he showed us quite a bit of excitement. He immediately asked us to sit down and share the book with him.
We said “yes,” completely unsure about what would transpire.
For ten minutes he flipped through the 200 pages of the publication, pointing at food and pronouncing the English names, laughing happily at beautiful pictures of Laos, and saying “The Buddha” with a level of adorning awe unfamiliar to my ears, every time a photo portrayed the sacred image of Buddha.
When we reached the front cover (he thumbed through the book backwards) he stood up and we quickly did the same. He thanked us, we thanked him, we all bowed, twice, and we all went about our business.
I don’t know why he was so intrigued by the book of food and ingredients familiar to him. Or why he chose us. Or why he wanted to see what was in our shopping bag. But I know one thing to be absolutely sure: always say yes to a smiling monk in an orange robe.