May 2, 2011

how to cook your life

Have you seen How to Cook Your Life? I watched it over the weekend and absolutely loved it! It had me feeling all nostalgic about Green Gulch and working in the kitchen there. The documentary (it's not terribly new - released in 2007) profiles Edward Espe Brown, a chef and Zen Buddhist priest who was the tenzo (head chef) at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for many years, was one of the founders of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, and is the author of several cookbooks, including the Tassajara Bread Book and Tassajara Recipe Book. He now leads the Peaceful Sea Sangha in Northern California and regularly conducts classes and sittings there and at the other Zen centers.

Brown is a legend among the California Zen community, and I first heard about him when I was visiting Green Gulch. He's a character and a great story teller, and throughout the film he weaves tales from the kitchen together with childhood memories, life lessons, and Buddhist teachings. There is also a particularly intense scene about banged-up tea pots. And a hilarious only-in-Northern-California bit featuring a dumpster-diving and free-fruit-picking enthusiast -- she calls it the Creative Catering Company -- who hasn't bought groceries in years.

The film also includes beautiful shots of Tassajara, Green Gulch, and the San Francisco Zen Center and gives a glimpse of what it's like to live and work among these communities. After watching it, I felt so calm - as if I had just meditated for an hour.

Here's a trailer for the film (the dumpster-diver's in there!).


  1. thanks for this---can't wait to watch it in its entirety.
    my first bread baking (long long ago==mid '70's) came from a recipe in the original Tassajara Bread Book

  2. Hi Nancy - yes, I must get the bread book! Also thinking of ordering their newest one, the complete Tassajara cookbook. Next time I'm in San Fran I want to get to Greens.

  3. Did you rent this? I am wondering how to watch it..maybe on itunes?

  4. Hi Jessica - I rented it on dvd from netflix. iTunes might have it too but I haven't checked. Hope you're able to locate it!