We saw a wonderful movie the other night about Zen teacher and Master Chef Edward Espe Brown. How To Cook Your Life was directed by Doris Dorrie, a filmmaker who is also a practicing Buddhist and has made other dharma films of fiction. This documentary shows Chef Brown cooking, teaching and being authentically, unabashedly himself. Author of The Tassajara Bread Book and a student of Suzuki Roshi, Espe Brown is a wonderful and direct teacher of cultivating genuineness, both in the kitchen and in the heart. The movie is very funny and moving. He is not afraid to show himself honestly, warts and all. He admits to anger. He shows sorrow. He laughs at himself. And yet through it all, he conveys such gentle compassion and insight, that you are left with a deeper understanding of the teachings.
Cooking is his vehicle for understanding and transmitting the dharma, and his food is so beautiful and nourishing to look at, and having used his cookbooks, I can attest that it also tastes wonderful. He speaks beautifully in the film about things as they are, and how to surrender to the present moment. The film left us hungry and a little bit happy sad, as we thought of how to apply his teachings to our own daily life with our children. He says one thing in the film that stuck with me: "it is our job to help the swiss chard [or lettuce or whatever we are cooking] be the best swiss chard it can be, not manipulate it or force it to be anything else. It is our job to just offer ourselves to it and ask, how can I assist you in being yourself fully?" I have been contemplating this all week as it applies to child rearing. It is a useful and powerful teaching for me.
Here is a nice poem by Mr. Espe Brown:
The truth is you're already a cook.
Nobody teaches you anything,
but you can be touched, you can be awakened.
Put down the book and start asking,
"What have we here?"
Though recipes abound, for soups and salads,
breads and entrées, for getting enlightened
and perfecting the moment, still
the unique flavor of Reality
appears in each breath, each bite,
each step, unbounded and undirected.
Each thing just as it is,
What do you make of it?
You can view the trailer for the movie here - although it doesn't do it justice!