The congressman arrives.
Embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel arrived around 6:30 last night at 275 Hudson to attend an event showcasing the vegan cuisine of Korean Buddhist monks. Attended by body guards, the legislator — who has been accused of multiple improprieties — looked surprised at the traditional garb worn by the costumed greeters at the door, then was whisked inside.
A reception was held in the corridor outside the banquet hall, as Congressman Rangel met with the head monk in a private room at the rear.
The three-hour event was sponsored by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. A large contingent of monks and nuns — some of them chefs, all of them bald — had been flown in for the evening. While the ostensible purpose was to familiarize the American public with Korean Temple Cuisine — which includes no animal products whatsoever, and heavily features lotus root, seaweed, sesame derivatives, rice, acorn jelly, wild grass, and pickled radish — the event included lengthy speeches about the virtues of Korean-style Buddhism. The president of the Jogye Order, the Most Venerable Jaseung, gave a speech directly preceding the meal.
The program began at 6:30 p.m., and speeches by various religious and secular officials took almost an hour before the food was served buffet-style. There were approximately 300 attendees, most of them Korean. Halfway through the speeches, Congressman Rangel stood up, appeared to falter, and was led out through a side door. His reason for attending (his name was proudly announced from the podium, and the room exploded in applause) was to meet with Korean Buddhist officials. It is election season, after all.
Though no alcoholic beverages were served — consistent with the cuisine — one could indulge in sweet teas.
Procession of Korean children
After a dramatic procession of Korean children bearing paper lanterns, and an exhibition of drumming monks, the food was finally served. Though a monk had lectured us that the food was best enjoyed in complete silence, the speeches and multimedia presentations continued, as special guests (including Fork in the Road friend and fellow blogger Cathy Erway) were interviewed and an army of Korean press representatives, poised at the side of the room on a raised platform, snapped their cameras.
The food was prepared with incredible attention to detail, and was wholesome and tasty, though bland in the extreme, since the cuisine allows no use of garlic or other alliums like green onions, since these are said to stimulate carnal lust. Other spices are also absent, though the occasional dish was spiced with chilies. As the meal proceeded, and guests reloaded their plates, there was notably no fornication going on.
Most of the chefs were also monks.
Next: Food pictures from the event
There were four serving lines.
A loaded-down plate. Guests were admonished that Buddhist monks must eat every morsel, then wash their plates with water, so that ghosts won’t be choked by tiny bits of food when they lick the plates.
Acorn jelly salad
Stuffed poached lotus root
The stuffed kirby cukes looked much better than they tasted.