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Food is not just matter””the proverbial “fuel for the body”””but human endeavor, our blood, sweat, and tears brought to table in a form that nourishes all our other goings-on.

In cooking and eating, we’re shifting from the world of exploitation””getting what we can””to the world of nurturing, where we receive the bounty and blessings of nature: green grassy asparagus, yellow tart lemon, mellow earthy potato, robust purple beet””each ingredient so distinctly, and sincerely, what it is, without any wish to be other or better, freely offering what it has to offer.

Likewise, our hearts are here to freely offer what they have to offer, tasting, cherishing, connecting, enlivening hands and feet to gather ingredients and transform them into food. Our hearts long to do this, so they do not need to be told what to do but simply freed from the dictates of maximizing return. Hearts, no longer constrained by the need to have the results “measure up,” are liberated. Infused with heart energy, our bodies come alive””as does the food!

Thus, we can remind ourselves that stepping into the kitchen can be extraordinarily generous, a plunging-in to giving life to life. Rather than merely being a lot of work, our soul comes forward, and our spirit lifts with the vitality of our heart in action.

Roasted Potatoes

In this recipe, the humble potato is roasted to sweet nuttiness. Add garlic cloves or fresh rosemary as you wish. Makes four modest servings.

  • 1 pound potatoes (red, Yukon gold, fingerlings), cut into fork-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 12 cloves garlic, unpeeled (optional)
  • A few sprigs of rosemary, half-inch segments (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Toss the potatoes with olive oil to coat, and sprinkle on salt and pepper.
  3. If you’re adding garlic, leaving the skins on the cloves encourages them to roast to softness instead of crispness. Not everyone wants little branchy things with their potatoes, but I follow my nose with the rosemary. Now you wing it!
  4. Spread the potatoes on parchment paper on a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 45 minutes until soft and perhaps slightly browned.
  5. Bon appétit!

About the Contributor

Edward Espe Brown found his way to Zen practice in 1965. He was the first head cook, or tenzo, at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and his bestselling book, The Tassajara Bread Book, was published in 1970. In the years since, Edward helped found Greens Restaurant in San Francisco and wrote several other cookbooks. His latest book, No Recipe: Cooking as a Spiritual Practice, is about finding your own way in the kitchen””and in life.

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Image Credit

Illustration by Mo Riza