We are not “foodies” in the monastery. We’re simply human. The traditional incantation over the meal (translated from the Pali ) goes like this: Wisely reflecting I eat this alms food, not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening, nor for beautification, but only for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it healthy and helping with the holy life. Thinking thus, I shall allay hunger without overeating so that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease. I often wondered why we recited those unforgettable phrases each day when we sat together in the great hall to eat our main meal. But not at breakfast. Breakfast was for bagels* . How exciting it was when we got bagels of a morning – never mind that they arrived on the wrong day, infuriating the donor who was not informed when the senior monk - seeing that we were receiving too many 'special' breakfasts - had casually postponed the memorial offering for her mother. Eventually they came - bagels and all the traditional trimmings heaped onto trays and passed down the line with excruciating mindfulness - to be rounded off with freshly-brewed cups of coffee. For nearly 365 days of the year, we eat gruel and drink instant tea or coffee. But on that handful of days, benevolent lay friends would lavish us with another kind of breakfast. Porridge is unbeatable on cold wet English m...