How to Cook your Life


Amazon, in all its cleverness, really knows me. Sad to say but it may know me better than my friends or family. You see, I order a lot of books from Amazon. And I look at stuff on Amazon almost everyday. (it’s true, I don’t buy much in the way of stuff but I’m book addicted. It is my one great weakness.)

This weekend, Amazon recommended that I try out a documentary called “How to Cook your Life,” by Doris Dorrie. I don’t buy movies and the $2.99 rental seemed a bit steep, given that the reviews were mediocre, but I love Edward Espe Brown, a cook and Zen priest–and the subject of the film, and I have two of his cookbooks. So I broke into the husband’s netflix account and found that I could instantly queue it up for no additional money. Woohoo!

So yesterday while I cooked my lunch and ate, I watched the film. The reviews were right–it’s pretty slow. Zen-like? Not so sure but since I’ve read Brown’s cookbooks, I’d already heard most of what he had to say. Still, it was good to see him in action, especially in how he kneads bread dough. I realized that mine has been sticking because I’ve not had my wrist in the right place when I begin the kneading process. I need to make some dough now and practice.

But more importantly, the film delivered the same message that Gussow’s book, This Organic Life, did. Real food made by real people sustains us. Knowing our food isn’t just smart, it’s a meditative practice and a creative endeavor. Cooking can fulfill needs far beyond our hunger.

I know this is easier said than done. So many evenings I have work piled up and think that if only SOMEONE else would cook dinner, I could get the piles cleared. But food is my responsibility in this house and it’s down to me to do it. And always after I get going, I relax into the chopping and stirring and enjoy the process. The “what if” I add a bit of this or that? The “what if” I brown this first? Cooking is an intellectual process–it engages our minds.

But it also engages our hearts. I saw this on the blog Living Small today and can’t help but quote it here:

“As I surf around the cooking blogs, I sometimes see comments from readers who are grateful to see home food because it validates their own efforts. I worry about the lifestyle-ification of cooking — all the blogs and tv shows and magazines and competitions out there. Really, it’s just about cooking dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a stew you make in a crock pot before you go to work. The important things are that you make it from what Michael Pollan would call “real food” — and that if you live with other people, that you all eat together. (And if you live alone, as I did for a very long time, that you feed yourself real food. You are no less in need of feeding because you’re on your own.)”

I think Charlotte at Living Small may be on to something.

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