food for thought

Food for Thought: “In Buddha’s Kitchen”

For my Food and the Sacred class, I was assigned to read “In Buddha’s Kitchen: Cooking, Being Cooked, and Other Adventures in a Meditation Center” by Kimberley Snow. I always love reading, but never find the time during the school year to read what I want, and most of the time when I read during the school year, it’s for class and not necessarily the most interesting book. As luck would have it, this book turned out to be great and I found myself putting off other homework to read it – not necessarily a problem when reading the book is homework, but becomes a problem when you have homework that should be done first.

The book gives an account of Snow’s time in a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center. Before going to the retreat center, one of her previous jobs was working as a chef. When she began cooking, she fooled a restaurant into thinking she had more professional experience than she really had. With some time and some training, she grew into a phenomenal chef. She claimed to be so good, that her workers would call her God. Overtime though, she was fueled by anger and rage while in the kitchen. She resented the perfection of the work, noted that with every perfection dish she turned out to clients, “it all turns to shit.” She would go into fits of anger, making revolting dishes in her spare time. At one point, she says a plate broke and she sprinkled the shattered pieces on top of a dish. She didn’t serve these to those who attended her restaurant, but when she was in the kitchen during a fit her workers knew to stay clear.

Upon being in the Buddhist retreat center, the Lamas – the Tibetan Buddhist word for teacher – helped her find ways to overcome her anger, along with other issues in her life. Instead of finding peace in meditation, like most at the retreat center do, she finds it in cooking in the retreat center kitchen. At one point, she begins reading a poem by Rumi titled “Chickpea to Cook.” The poem is about a dialogue between a chickpea being cooked and the chef, and it symbolizes how the food is cooking her, as opposed to her cooking the food. The food has more power over her than she has over it because it makes her better with time, and provides as her outlet of meditation.

Now, I don’t want to give too much away because I think it’s a book worth reading. It’s an easy read, but you can take substantial life lessons out of it. It is a perfect example of how food has the ability to impact more than our tastebuds, it impacts how we deal with our problems, how we help others, and what we can do for ourselves.

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