How To Cook Your Life
How To Cook Your Life
Interview with Edward Brown
(Excepted from the Mongrel Media press kit)
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE TIME WE LIVE IN? WHAT IS OUR APPROACH TO FOOD AND COOKING?
It is obvious that here in the USA manual labor doesn’t count anymore; it’s devalued and not honored. Not only when it comes to cooking, also the carpenter, the mechanic, the plumber, the farmer, the gardener and the seamstresses are affected by this. Their knowledge and craft are devaluated. We don’t have time for all those things anymore. We are too busy earning money at often uninteresting jobs. If people were to do more simple, down-to-earth activities like gardening, sewing or cooking they would feel more satisfied and fulfilled, more connected. You won’t get this from watching television. Working with our hands nourishes us. It doesn’t matter, if you cook or do garden work, it will give you a feeling of being connected to the world. You work with the things of this world. Today, if you are a successful person, you hire a cook, a housekeeper, you buy your clothes and somebody buys your food. Nobody touches a broom anymore to sweep the floor. What are hands for? To put chips in your mouth and punch the remote?
ARE WE DISCONNECTING OURSELVES?
People feel estranged because they lose connection to the world and to other human beings. There is little closeness anymore and people often have few real friends. Our lives are too busy, we have a lot of fears but hardly any happiness. So people seek fulfillment in entertainment. Many people in the USA watch up to six hours of TV every day and again they are all by themselves or if someone else is there, there is little opportunity for interaction.
Our modern lifestyle shows our inability to be deeply rooted and connected with people and things and to bring out the best in ourselves and others. When cooking, you bring out the best in the food and you serve it to yourself and others. When watching TV nothing really happens, it is pure consumption. It can be fun and a terrific release, but for six hours?
DO YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO COOK?
Perhaps you have to learn how to cook, but your willingness to be in the kitchen kick-starts the whole process, which means that your willingness to not already know and to be finding out is a tremendous asset. Zen Master Dogen stresses that your wish, your choosing to cook, and your interest and curiosity along with your passion sparks the process of learning. You want to know how to do it, so you study and find out more about how to do things. Of course you are “learning to cook”, but you are also becoming the embodiment of a cook: seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, meeting, greeting.
YOU USE A LOT OF METAPHORS. LIKE THE EXAMPLE OF THE OLD CRACKED TEAPOT WHICH IS STILL DOING ITS JOB. ARE THOSE METAPHORS TYPICAL FOR ZEN?
Zen finds poetry in everything, sees the profoundness of the ordinary. My favorite sentence of Dogen’s “Instructions to the Cook” is “Let your heart go out and abide in things. Let things return and abide in your heart.”