Known primarily for his cookbook The Tassajara Recipe Book, Brown practices his culinary craft at the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara Mountain Center and at Austria's Scheibbs Buddhist Center. In one of the best moments, Brown quotes his teacher Suzuki Roshi who tells him, "When you wash the rice, wash the rice. When you cut the carrots, cut the carrots. When you stir the soup, stir the soup." It's so simple, so perfect, and so refreshing. And many moments are, with only a few scenes in which Dorrie leaves her focus on Brown to document other ways of securing food such as a dumpster diving, scavenging woman who illustrates how much good food we carelessly waste.
Though it runs just over one and a half hours, "How to Cook Your Life" sags occasionally unless the audience shares the disciples' typically admiring attitude toward Brown. To be fair, Brown has a strong point to make, and he unabashedly shows his complex humanity as he struggles to accept Zen equanimity. But he becomes annoying, his laugh irritating, and his comments, at times, repetitive and superficial. There's always the danger of a documentary becoming too enamored of its subject or just shortchanging the content. Both flaws compromise How to Cook Your Life, but sufficient wisdom exists in it to encourage our beneficial reconsideration of not only what we cook and what we eat but how it truly reflects our values and determines our quality of life.
"How to Cook Your Life" screens one time only at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 19th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.