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How to Cook Your Life
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How to Cook Your Life (2007) More at IMDbPro »

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How to Cook Your Life -- Food takes on a spiritual dimension in this film from German director Doris D?rrie. HOW TO COOK YOUR LIFE centers on Zen Master Edward Espe Brown and his quest to unite Buddhism and cooking.
How to Cook Your Life -- A Zen priest in San Francisco and cookbook author use Zen Buddhism and cooking to relate to everyday life.


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Release Date:
2007 (Austria) See more »
A Zen priest in San Francisco and cookbook author use Zen Buddhism and cooking to relate to everyday life. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
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User Reviews:
When you wash the rice, wash the rice See more (6 total) »


  (in credits order)

Edward Espe Brown ... Himself

Doris Dörrie ... Herself

Directed by
Doris Dörrie 
Writing credits
Doris Dörrie 

Produced by
Franz X. Gernstl .... producer
Fidelis Mager .... producer
Richard Sterling .... line producer
Cinematography by
Doris Dörrie 
Jörg Jeshel 
Film Editing by
Suzi Giebler 
Production Management
Annika Herr .... production manager
Sound Department
Joo Fürst .... foley artist
Magda Habernickel .... sound editor
Max Rammler-Rogall .... sound mixer
Stefan Ravasz .... sound
Marcel Spisak .... sound designer
Camera and Electrical Department
Karin Haider .... still photographer
Robert Mayer .... carving photography
Editorial Department
Tobias Bohlinger .... post-production coordinator
Boris Link .... colorist
Werner Pertl .... post-production coordinator
Other crew
Solveig Langeland .... world sales
Beatrix Wesle .... world sales
Matthias Brauner .... special thanks
Michael Hackl .... special thanks
Kathie Klippe .... special thanks
Christian Littmann .... special thanks
Thomas Orthofer .... special thanks
Mary Ann Otemann .... special thanks
Monika Petrinic .... special thanks
Angela Reedwisch .... special thanks
Angie Reichenberger .... special thanks
Josef Reidinger .... special thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
USA:94 min | Germany:100 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:


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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful.
When you wash the rice, wash the rice, 16 August 2008
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.

Metaphors about food and its connection to life are common in our society; for example, "life is just a bowl of cherries", or "life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get". Yet most of us take food for granted, treating it as little more than a necessary means of survival, pausing only long enough to open a package or stop for fast food on the way home from work. The connection between our life and what we eat is the main theme of German director Dorris Dorrie's documentary How to Cook Your Life featuring Zen practitioner and acclaimed chef Edward Espe Brown. Brown has been a practicing Buddhist for over forty years and is the author of several books including "The Tassajara Bread Book", a main reference book for aspiring bread bakers.

Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, Dorrie's film follows Brown to several Buddhist centers including Scheibbs in Austria, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and the Zen Center in San Francisco as he promotes his ideas about our putting food into a larger context in our life. "When you're cooking you're not just cooking", he says, "not just working on food, you are also working on yourself, on other people." Brown was ordained as a Zen priest in 1971 by Suzuki Roshi and has held cooking classes in Buddhist centers throughout the world, teaching mindful awareness of food in our life. Roshi, author of the popular "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", is shown in original archive footage, "When you wash the rice", he once told Brown, "wash the rice, when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots, when you stir the soup, stir the soup." In other words, when you are involved with a task, be involved one hundred percent, stay in present time and silence the little voice in the back of your head.

Dorrie divides the film into sections: free your hands, fiasco, cutting through the confusion, anger, affluence, no preferences-no aversions, incomparable, imperfection and blemishes. She also visits an organic farm and a cookware store and shows how a woman creates her own meals by scavenging fruit from trees and leftovers from grocery stores. Brown aches for a return to a simpler life with more personal involvement with food. His emphasis is on the joy of using our hands in cooking and has nothing good to say about the packaged and processed foods that permeate our society. He talks with nostalgia about his memories of when his father baked his own bread. "Why are we eating like this? What went wrong? We're eating a puffy kind of chemically, not very tasty, papery-cardboard bread. We don't do things anymore because supposedly machines can do it better."

Brown has a strong point of view and has the ability to laugh at himself with a little chuckle like the Dalai Lama, though at times his personality can be somewhat irritating and I would have enjoyed hearing from more of the participants at the Centers. Dorrie does not set him up as a saint, however, showing his occasional lapses into anger and frustration and his tears when describing a dented teakettle and comparing it to the worn vessel of our own bodies. The message, however, comes through clearly. Brown says, "When we give away our capacity to do things with our hands, with our bodies, to use our hands to knead the bread, to make things, to touch things, to smell things, how are we going to feel alive?" I remembered this the next day when I made pancakes from scratch for the first time in many years. Not bad, either.

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