How to Cook Your Life

How to Cook Your Life

Germany, 2007, 93 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Foreign, Religion
Language: German, English English Sub-Titles

Best known as the author of the cookbooks that made the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center a vegetarian household name (including the classic Tassajara Bread Book), Edward Espe Brown is a Zen priest, poet, chef and teacher who shows his students how to achieve mindfulness, cultivate loving-kindness and preserve cultural traditions via the act of cooking. He shows them that eating, too, involves more than caloric intake; it can serve as a spiritual exercise, a means to fulfillment in – and through – every sense.

In How to Cook Your Life, director Doris Dörrie ushers us into both the zendo where Brown lectures on Buddhism and the kitchen where he imparts wisdom with a paring knife. She captures the ways in which he conducts his life as well as his classes. And she situates it all within a larger sociopolitical context, sprinkling How to Cook Your Life with much-needed wake-up calls about America’s vexed, contradictory attitudes toward food, from its preparation and consumption to its disposal – on organic farms, at fast-food counters, among the homeless, among activists. Yet she doesn’t neglect to add a dash of Brown’s wry humor too. (Brown on offerings: “The Buddha is not even gonna eat it, the Buddha’s not even gonna smell it…[He] doesn’t say: ‘Thank you, nice meal, love the crêpes’…What you do is you make your effort.”)

Without proselytizing or romanticizing, Dörrie’s documentary proposes that in the act of preparing food – of nourishing oneself and others – one marks a path to happiness. Not only of interest to cooks, How to Cook Your Life is for anyone who wishes to reconnect with the world.

DIRECTOR: Doris Dörrie
Producer: Franz X. Gernstl, Fidelis Mager
Editor: Suzi Giebler
Screenwriter: Doris Dörrie
Cinematographer: Doris Dörrie
Principal Cast: Edward Espe Brown, Doris Dörrie
US Distributor: Roadside Attractions

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