Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts
Spring time always inspires me...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Tassajara Bread Book

One day, a long time ago, when my aunt Sandra Habal was still among us. She came to see my mother bearing a gift. She knew how much my mother loved baking bread and found this book called: The Tassajara Bread Book written by a Soto Zen Buddhist priest named Edward Espe Brown. The book became mine years later. It is really like no other. In 1995, the book published its 25th edition. The author writes: "I do not bake to be great. I bake because it is wholesome. I feel renewed, and I am renewing the world, my friends and neighbors. Most of us bake in this way."

I understand him so well. When I am feeling sad, like yesterday! I bake bread. It makes me feel so good inside. It is accepting what the earth has given us and making a prized gift to share, especially with loved ones. I think every family should own this book, it is a message of hope, of good baking, of sharing one's passion.

I love the introductory statement of his book (I quote): "Working in the Kitchen—What is it, closer than close? Not impervious or distant, not stiff or unresponsive. A get-down-in-the-mud mind: Food comes alive with your presence, reaching out, laboring, taking the time for flour, salt, water, yeast to come together, for a bowl that breaks, the dirty dishes, a leaky faucet, always more to cooking than meets the eye! Each thing asking to be seen, heard, known, loved, a companion in the dark. "Take care of the food," it is said, "as though it was your own eyesight," nto saying, oh that's all right, we have plenty, we can throw that away. Table, teapot, measuring cups, spoons: the body within the body, the place where everything connects. Ripe, succulent fruit, leaves, stems, roots, seeds: the innermost mind awakening, fully manifesting. What are you up to, after all? What is a way of life that is satisfying, fulfilling, sustaining and sustainable? Cups, glasses, sponges, one body with a hundred faces, a sticky honey jar, the half-empty cup of coffee, each asking to fulfill, each offering the touch of the beloved. Enter, plunge into the heart of the matter: an unknown destination, an unknown adventure unfolding with your wits about you and your not-so-wits. Things emerging in life. Life emerging in things, no separation. Concentrating on food, concentrating on myself, with heart opening, hands offering, my everything be deliciously full of warmth and kindness. Coming from the earth, coming from the air, a cool breeze, a spark, a flame, go ahead: Cook, offer yourself, hold nothing back. Cooking is not like you expected, not like you anticipated. What is happening is unheard of, never before experienced. You cook. No mistakes. You might do it differently next time, but you did it this way this time. Things are as they are, even if you say too much this too little that. And if you want things to stay the same, remind yourself they have no unchanging nature. "Wherever you go, remember there you are." O.K? Go ahead. Keep moving. Watch your step. "

The author
A Zen priest from Fairfax, California. Wise, clever and often surprisingly wrathful: Edward Espe Brown. Author of the famous Tassajara cookbooks, philosopher, Zen teacher and master chef. Doris Dörrie met with Edward Brown and he told her about his life. She participated in his lectures, watched the master in the kitchen and in his cooking classes. Under Edward Espe Browns guidance, cooking is more than just providing food. Cooking, or better, knowing how to cook, is a matter of caring for yourself and others. Without romanticizing Edward Espe Brown and his work, Doris Dörrie succeeds in capturing the magic moment where practical advice unlocks wisdom and deepness. A Zen monk shows us the sensuality of baking bread, the philosophy of radishes and the serenity of carrots. It is not just a culinary delight but also makes us a bit wiser.  Watch the trailer of the How to Cook your Life movie.

1 comment:

Donna Becker said...

Now that you mention it ... and beautifully done I might add ... its seems to me that there's a copy of The Tassajara Bread Book buried somewhere in our various stashes of books. I'll have to dig it out and spend some time with it. You've got me interested in it again.