Sunday, June 8, 2008

Have Knives, Will Cook

It's amazing when the pieces of my life come together unexpectedly. And I am especially amazed when my blog-reading life jives with my physical life. A few days ago on Soule Mama's blog I noticed this book on the side bar. The words "Tassajara" brought back memories of dozens of slices of toast eaten during my years of living in Northern California. We'd stop at Bell Market on the way home and pick up a loaf.

"Tassajara toast, Poppy! With lots of butter!" That's what we'd chirp to my dad for whenever he asked us if we wanted a snack. We are a BIG toast family -- always in search of the perfect loaf, and we've burnt out a toaster or two over the past years.

Just today, I put in my latest Netflix entitled "How To Cook Your Life" and was totally floored to see my worlds collide, because it turns out that this documentary is a film about Edward Espe Brown who wrote the Tassajara Bread Book.

I really enjoyed this little film. I'm not a Zen follower, nor do I make my own bread (although I've since been inspired to try, but probably after our 100+ degree summer is over), but this film is great. It spoke to me as a graduate student on several levels. Watching Brown get frustrated with a bottle of oil and slice off the plastic lid with a cleaver saying "Why do they do this to people?" symbolized both my past and current frustrations and mimicked my internal and external temper tantrums. Watch Brown mangle a packaged block of cheese -- you'll get it.

I think the most important message of the movie for me was to remember to be in the moment; to accept imperfection; to focus on the singular task at hand; to let my hands do things hands ought to do.

Two of Brown's quotes stick with me. He says we ought to "treat the food as though it were your eye sight; treat it as though it were that precious." I believe that this is not just true about food, but about everything we value in life: our work, our education, our family, our planet.

He also says: "when you're cooking, you're not just cooking, you're not just working on food, you're also working on yourself...the food will taste better when the cook is joyful." Again, there are many things that nourish my life besides the food I eat. And I must be cognoscente that when I am producing a "thing" (like a dissertation) I am also working on myself and the world around me to improve both and to share my joy.

Brown reminds us to look past our temper tantrums, our inner and outer moments of weakness, and be joyful. Loving the toast.

The photo is from here, where you can also watch a trailer for the film.

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