Cooking for the Love of the World
Author: Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt
200 pages, softbound - $22.95
A heart-centered, warmth-filled guide to the nurturing art of cooking.
FORWARD BY ROBERT SARDELLO
This highly unusual and oh, so significant writing, takes something we all do everyday, several times --- eating--- and helps infuse this act with a deeply reverent and spiritual consciousness. The book accomplishes this intention by brilliantly and beautifully placing food within an understanding of the earthly and cosmic forces of plant life as well as providing exquisite recipes that transform nature into the art of cooking. It might be helpful to forewarn you just a bit by urging you to work with the whole of the book.
Because of our tendency to compartmentalize our actions, there may be a temptation to look upon this book as two books rather than one --- a book on the spirituality of food and a practical cookbook. Anne-Marie is very clear in what she is doing with this writing. She help us perceive our bodies, our lives, the world around us, and the larger universe as a whole form of multiple, related activities that come together in miraculous ways through the act of eating. Until we can consciously enter into the miracle of food we are lost in one popular speculation after another concerning how to eat.
“Miraculous” is … the experience you enter as you read this book. With all that is now available concerning nutrition, calories, carbohydrates, and the thousands of diets available to help us achieve some notion we have of health and ideal figure, the amount of information goes beyond anyone’s capacity to comprehend. What has been lacking until the moment of this book is an entirely new way of understanding food and eating.
This writing … invites us into the joy of paying attention to the magnificent beauty of Nature, not as some ecstatic moment of experience, but carefully, lovingly, and continually. As we do so, over time, we develop an entirely new relation to food because we have overcome the spectator perspective and become engaged with being intimately interwoven with the world, and indeed, with the cosmos.
By far the most significant aspect of paying this kind new attention to the natural world in relation to food and eating is to begin, slowly, to live into the element of rhythm that characterizes the movements of the cosmos, the earth, and the human body. The rhythm of the days, the seasons, the years, of morning, noon, evening, of waking and sleeping, and of expansions and contraction, intertwine with the rhythms of plant life.
Rhythms characterize the Wisdom of the cosmos, earth, and human body. These natural rhythms and their relation, one to other, are severely disrupted, so it is hardly surprising that pathologies of eating are rampant, ranging from the epidemic of obesity to the secret epidemics of anorexia and bulimia.
Neither psychological answers nor fewer carbs and fast-food lettuce and tomatoes rather than fast-food hamburgers are likely to do much because both these directions of trying to address eating pathologies neglect the necessary element of rhythm. More than anything else, this book concerns re-finding our place in the great natural motions of the cosmos as manifested in the growth of the foods we eat. Eating can be a way of coming home to our place within the cosmos.
…Anne-Marie is a gifted writer because she is a gifted observer. There is a term for this kind of engaged, loving, participant observation. … as you read, you will find yourself taken back into the world as it appeared when you were a child. There is a kind of second innocence to this writing, and for that reason you can trust it without reservation. There is no attempt to convince you of the merits of this way of looking at the world, at food, and eating. The phenomena itself convinces, once you can see.
This approach to food is why you must read the book as a whole. If you simply go to the recipes and try them, it is likely that you will soon move on to other ones in other places. If, on the other hand, you study the writing you will feel the wonders of the world, and the recipes will be flavored by the devoted attention that you now give to the world.
You are about to be refreshingly astounded by a writing on food that concentrates on qualities rather than quantities. There is no mention anywhere in this book about how many calories you should take in or how many carbohydrates. The living world is a world of exquisite and particular qualities. The world of the dead is the world of quantities. Thus, we cannot be nourished by theories of eating that are founded on the imagination of dead things. When we do follow such writings on food and do find some results for a while, we are equally astounded to find that the pounds come back.
Materialistic approaches to nutrition, food, and dieting can only yield concern for quantities, to the point of obsession. These approaches to food are part of the problem of commodification that they try to address and cannot solve because the theories of these approaches, which concentrate on food as commodity, exist at the same level as the problem.
When we think of spirituality or being spiritual, we tend to think of how to be less of this world and more part of a non-material realm. That kind of spirituality does not characterize this book. And, it is true, when you do find nutritional interests among spiritually oriented folk, there is something that tends to be just a little bit wispy about those interests. Often the notion is that it is necessary to purify the body in order to be spiritual. Or it is necessary to refrain from meat and meat products in order to be fully spiritual. The notion of the spiritual realms that you will find in this writing is much more embracing of the world.
While the pollution and contamination of foods is certainly something that this book tries to get us to move away from, that has to do with the way in which food has been deadened before it gets to the table, deadened by chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds, and chemical preservatives. But the fullness of the world and all that is offered by Nature as gift is embraced. What we are given here is food and eating as everyday festival.
A very important transition is made in this writing as Anne-Marie moves carefully from descriptions of plants and the natural world to the art of cooking. The art of this art is to consciously work with the rhythms of the natural world, to intensify them into smell, touch, and taste in such a manner that we are taken even further into being a part of world-rhythm. There is a radical secret here --- namely, that if we cook and eat reverently, not with false piety, but genuinely experiencing the processes of expansion and contraction in the preparation of food more intensely and even more imaginatively than these processes are present in the world, then we are serving the world in our eating. Imagine that!
Eating can be renewing for the earth, not just for ourselves! It makes perfect sense. If we are bodily deadened by what and how we eat, then we will perceive the world as mere objects to be used to keep the engine running. If, on the other hand, we see the world in its living activity, feel the connection of this life to the life of the body, and prepare food and eat in relation to these living qualities, we will perceive the earth as a living being. Embodied ecology.
The earth, nature, the cosmos is feeling-filled. And, if we can attune our feeling life to the feeling qualities of the world we become, or can become scientists in the realm of feeling. We have combined art and science. This book does exactly that. Doing so is inherently life-giving and life-supporting. And, then, given this new science, we can imagine even more fully the extraordinary art of cooking. Cooking requires an imagination that can inwardly see all of the feeling processes of the natural world, in detail and not in some vague way of sentiment.
And further, the art of cooking requires the capacity to take the feeling elements of the natural world and not only intensify them, but to combine them in new ways, ways unheard of in the natural world. Combining them in ways that enhance nature, renews the qualities of nature, and equally take us into the quite invisible spiritual qualities of nature. This book works in this manner, and when carefully read the natural world will be perceived anew and eating will be completely different, enhanced, elevated.
If we follow through the act of eating to what then occurs in the body, we are taken into the realm of metabolism. In spiritual terms, the metabolism of the body concerns the element of the will. While the connection of metabolism will and the body is most apparent in the metabolism of the muscles, how we actually move and get around and do things in the world, it holds equally so for the processes of digestion, and also of reproduction.
We are not only nourished by food, it determines the quality of our acts of will in the world. We are not very aware of this connection until the body becomes once again more sensitive. Taking up the practices within this book does result in an increased bodily sensitivity, where it becomes possible to feel the relation between what and how we eat to the ways we relate with others.
While it might first sound somewhat incomprehensible, eating has moral ramifications. The spiritual approach to food taken in this book inevitably takes us in that direction and toward an understanding of planting, growing, cooking, and eating as an essential aspect of a spiritual path.