Ikigai and Bacon Rolls

In the middle of October last year I went for my last bike ride of the season around Richmond Park and after that, I was inspired to write about Ikigai and Bacon rolls.

I’m going to simply repeat the core of that post below. Please scroll down and read that first, then come back to additional thoughts added today, as last weekend I went back for my first bacon roll there for seven months (I am a “fair weather” cyclist!).

So much has happened, so much changed in the last seven months, yet when I went back to Pen Ponds cafe, everything was the same as in my October post excerpted below.

In those seven months, I have continued my lifelong search for the best bacon roll in the world, so when I went to order one at Pen Ponds café, I noted to the cook that he still held the title of “best bacon roll ever” for me, as since being there last October I had not found a bacon roll better yet !

His eyes glinted, and he poured out a story that explained everything…

His name is Oscar, he is in his 60s, and around 40 years ago he started work as a cook under the tutelage of a man who at that time had himself worked for about 40 years as a cook.

He learned from that man the importance of focussing, of taking pleasure in doing something very simple, very well.

I smiled, then told him I’d written about him in my article and compared him to the Sushi master with the Michelin stars on his restaurant and his identical focus.

Oscar then took time to explain more.

(Luckily there was not the usual crush of people waiting for bacon rolls, apparently lots of people were watching a wedding on TV instead of being out exercising on a glorious day 😜)

His day had started that morning at 5am, and he made sure his grill was ready, cleaning it thoroughly every single morning. Nothing was pre-cooked, everything cooked fresh.

When I wrote about Ikigai last October, I wrote about Jiro, I wrote about what Ikigai is.

You know what I missed about ? The secret ingredient in the bacon rolls. That secret ingredient is ? …. Love. When you take pleasure in the small things, focus on doing one thing really, really well, you can only do that for decades if you love what you do and do what you love… and I can taste it in the bacon rolls.

Life is short, be present…..

Post excerpt from “Ikigai, Pleasure and Meaning” from October 16, 2017

I’ve been drawn to the concept of Ikigai for some time. In September 2017 Ken Mogi published “The Little Book of Ikigai” and from such a short book full of wonderful stories I have taken so much. The book focuses on five pillars of Ikigai, and here I focus on the combination of “starting small”, “joy of the little things” and “be in the here and now” as represented in the two examples of simplicity and perfection below.

There are many wonderful stories in the book, starting with the choice of Sukiyabashi Jiro as the restaurant for President Obama to eat in for his welcome dinner with the Prime Minister of Japan. The owner and operator, Jiro Ono, worked for over sixty years with an unrelenting focus on one thing, making the best sushi in the world. The documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” tells the story :

Now, back to London, where I often ride my bike out to Richmond Park. I love the feeling of being present to the moment that comes with cycling, particularly in nature and out of the city. In less than an hour I can ride out of the centre of the city, make a lap of the park, and then I can make a stop at a special place.

That special place is Pen Ponds Cafe, a small trailer run by an Italian family and that makes excellent coffee, and probably the best bacon roll I’ve ever tasted. Given that I am on a lifelong quest for the simple pleasure of finding the best bacon roll ever, this is high praise. If you see me sitting at a bench in my cycling gear with my black coffee and bacon roll, know that I am truly appreciating every moment and every sensation.

I give you this photo from the other day at my latest visit and ask you to consider the parallels between Jiro and the master of the bacon rolls as he stands at his post 364 days per year, year after year….

bacon rolls

…….in this modern world that we make so complex, what does it teach us to see someone at work taking pleasure and meaning from perfection of one simple task ?