Posted at 5:21 PM on December 14, 2007
by Euan Kerr
There is a deep pleasure sometimes in just watching and listening as someone prepares a meal. When you listen to Edward Espe Brown, you also get a lesson in life. He is a Zen priest but also a long time cook and baker at the Tassajara Mountain Zen Center in California.
German film maker Doris Dorrie (perhaps best known for her comedy "Men" made in the mid-80's) followed Brown as he taught and cooked at zen centers in the US and Europe.
The resulting film "How to Cook Your Life" is quite a trip in itself.
Brown makes both an attractive and frustrating subject, a little like zen itself. At times deeply wise and contented, at others almost childish (he attacks a cheese packet which he can't open with a soup spoon handle, and weeps at the sight of tea pots) Brown keeps up a dialog with all around him.
Dorrie blends in scenes from the classes and other people she met on the tour, including a woman who says she hasn't been inside a grocery store in two years, living instead off food she finds in the dumpsters because they are past their sell-by date, and fruit she gathers from branches overhanging the streets. She also mixes in archive film of Suzuki-roshi, the Zen master whose disciples have established centers all over the US, including in the TWin Cities.
"How to Cook Your Life" is great fun to watch if you are in the right mood. It also makes you kind of hungry.