How To Cook Your Life

Watched a very charming, feel-good documentary the other night called How to Cook Your Life. I think it’s worth watching if you’re into food– some of the scenes have stayed with me and I really enjoyed it.

Directed by Dorris Dorrie, who is German, this film follows an American Zen monk and master chef. This guy was really sort of emotionally high-strung- he would preach serenity and Zen, while getting angry at his students about not following his cooking directions. But that was sort of the charm of this guy– he may be a monk, but he’s human too.

And I never really felt that Zen was being exotified or stuffed down your throat needlessly, which was a relief. It was more about the food, and what we can learn about ourselves through cooking. Dorrie weaves in the monk speaking and cooking, with images and clips of “how the rest of the world eats”, which worked both for and against the film (sometimes very random and hard to follow).

There was some really interesting footage though- like the dreadyhead lady who hadn’t bought groceries in 2 years (egads!), and instead forages fruit trees on the street and collects the supermarket’s “garbage” behind the store of expired eggs and whatnots. Self-proclaiming “locavores” could learn a thing or two from this woman- she truly helps reduce waste on a grass-roots level, I loved her.

My film companions and I duked out our differing opinions about the film over ramen afterwards at Menkui-Tei in midtown (best ramen noodles in town– the actual noodles that is). We agreed that it was all over the place and edited poorly, there was not enough cooking, and the angry monk was a bit disturbing. But all in all, I thought that the it was full of colorful imagery and poignant moments.

We also agreed that the ramen was satisfying and we all went home happy.

I do recall a great line by the monk: “is food important to you? Are you important to yourself?” He was really all about making connections between cooking as a way to express yourself, and to make yourself a better person. OMG shoot me- I love this sort of spiritual self-help stuff.

If nothing else, the film made me want to go out and learn how to make my own bread, which is definitely going to be my new year’s resolution.

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