Doris Dörrie's camera greets Edward Espe Brown when he arrives in Australia to give a class on cooking, Zen, and meditation. We see him back home in Northern California as well. Brown, for forty years a Zen cook, demonstrates cooking as well as commenting on topics including anger, quiet, gleaning and waste, battered pots, and how he found his vocation. A focus of his is to demonstrate how to bring one's self to cooking and to others simultaneously. He quotes often from two masters, with several examples of Zen wit. The camera takes the occasional trip to fast food restaurants to provide contrast to Brown's approach and results. Written by
Famed cookbook author Edward Espe Brown takes the old adage "You are what you eat" to a whole new level. For this master chef/Zen priest believes you must actually become "one" with your food (and, as it turns out, with your utensils as well) if you are to ever attain true wholeness of body and spirit in this life. Brown has been conducting courses on how to combine the art of meditation with the art of cooking for decades now, and the documentary "How to Cook Your Life" by German filmmaker Doris Dorrie (who went on to make the superb Zen-flavored drama "Cherry Blossoms" a year later) enrolls us in one of those courses - though we don't get any actual credit for the class and, what's worse, we don't get to sample any of the food.
Food for Brown has become a way of life - a spiritual and religious experience, as it were, a means of nurturing the soul as well as the body, of becoming one with nature. And the more organic and less processed that food is the better.
Brown spends much of the time in the course dispensing words of wisdom on how to live life in greater harmony with the world around us, with food and cooking as the primary means of achieving that goal (let it be noted that the seminar takes place in a beautiful bucolic center in rural California). And if the philosophizing gets to be a bit too much for you after awhile - as it did for me - and Brown seems more like a self-aggrandizing drama queen than an enlightened master at times (the crying over a teapot - and not even a broken one at that - is a bit much), you can at least savor all the tasty morsels that have been lovingly arrayed for our delectation.
Though, come to think of it, with his endless chatter and ceaseless pontificating, Brown puts us in mind of yet another popular expression: "How about a little less gab and a little more grub?"
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