How to Cook Your Life
February 19, 2011
“Nourishing yourself and others doesn’t come out of a package; it comes out of your heart…Is food precious? Is food worth caring about? Are you precious? Are you worth caring about?” –Edward Espe Brown
“We don’t do things anymore because supposedly machines can do it better…We give away our capacity to do things with our hands and with our bodies that actually give us health and vitality. To make things, to touch things, to smell things. We give it away, and then how are we going to feel alive?” –Edward Espe Brown
I love food. I really love food. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that food (done right) is one of the principal joys of the human experience. Despite the fact that it ranks right up there with love, sex, exercise, warm sunlight, and fresh air as a basic, fundamental, immutable sensory delight, it is something that we take for granted in this country.
I don’t just love food, though. I love to cook. For a long time, I’ve been trying to articulate why cooking is so important to me, and specifically, how it fits into a blog about self-creation and improvement. Tonight, I have an answer. I just watched a documentary called “How to Cook Your Life,” about Zen priest and professional chef Edward Espe Brown. In it, he discusses cooking and food both as metaphors for and components of a connected, passionate life.
At its most basic level, the goal of self-creation is to build a life that you are passionate about. What is the point, after all, of being alive if you don’t feel alive? This is critically important, and it starts with the basics: being connected to your life on a visceral level. What could be more basic and visceral than food?
I love Brown’s connection (in the quote above) between food and respect. Food is one of the most profound ways that we interact with each other. It’s also, hands down, the most profound cycle of interaction that we have with ourselves and with the earth, or at least it should be. If you buy, eat, and serve lots of processed foods, aren’t you really saying “I (and my family/friends/loved ones) am not worth the time, money, or effort of real food?” Aren’t you saying “the world around me isn’t worth my attention?”
Good cooking is an inherently respectful process, one that is not so much about forcing the ingredients to do what you want, but , as Brown puts it, asking the ingredients “how can I help you fulfill your potential?” They, in turn, will help you fulfill yours. And besides, cooking from scratch is fun. It allows you to tap into creativity, play, and sensory experience all at once in a way that very few activities do. Put simply, food is hardwired into our humanity; “food products” are not.
I’ll be writing more about this issue in future posts, both directly and indirectly. I believe absolutely in having a close, personal relationship with good, nourishing food, and soon I’ll be unveiling a post about what constitutes “good, nourishing food.” Those of you wanting to get a head start on the issue can head over to the Primal Blueprint website. I also recommend checking out Tim Ferriss’ post about the Slow-Carb Diet, as well as this article .