No Recipe


Yesterday I listened to the new Sounds True interview with renowned chef and Zen priest Edward Espe Brown. His book, No Recipe: Cooking As Spiritual Practice came out a few weeks ago, and the timing felt perfect, as I’ve been (too much) in my head for the last few days, thinking about how to craft the ideal recipe for raising kids with a healthy interfaith sense of spirituality, social justice, and self-esteem.

So when Ed, two minutes into the conversation, laughs about how there’s no friggin’ recipe for the spiritual journey, even though we tell ourselves “If I just do this, then it’s gonna turn out all right, right?!”, I loved him immediately.

I am a shitty cook who is slowly growing less shitty with practice (and a goodhearted husband and son who know to keep the salt handy). So Ed’s quickness to laugh at himself struck me.

You can always identify a longtime Buddhist practitioner by this gentle humor; the cultivated ability to not take oneself so damn seriously. There’s a tender coolness that comes from realizing there’s no essential self to begin with — just a collection of moments and relationships that breathe us into reality for a second or two, before they change again.

Ed says Zen practice is “like feeling your way along in the dark” (sounds a whole lot like parenting, too). What I love about Zen is the way it employs the body, weaving practice into the daily routine — sweeping the floor, stirring the soup — so that everything, even cleaning the toilet, can become a spiritual practice.

Here’s to writing your own recipe. As Ed says, “It’s not that you shouldn’t use any recipes; it just means that finally, in the long run, it’s up to you to figure out how to live your life, and if nothing else, which recipe to use.”

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