Rediscover the desire to cook and honor life

- through Henry Oudin

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At the time of the Top Chef show, it is sometimes difficult to find yourself alone in front of your stoves. However, not knowing how to cook is the best way to discover who we are.

I often hear people say to me, “I would really like to practice cooking in harmony with Zen, but I don't know how to cook. Is it possible ? Not only is it possible, but it's almost desirable. Like the writer in front of his blank page, he who knows nothing can dare anything and above all he can have fun.

One day when I was cooking for a workshop with two volunteer helpers, I noticed that one of them was looking at me with great seriousness and never missing a single gesture I made. In the evening, he went back to his notes, checking the recipes with me: “So you put in about a spoonful of soy, didn't you? What about miso here? ", etc. He was often disappointed that I couldn't remember what I had done.

At the end of the 4th day, I put him in front of the saucepan where a hotpot of spring vegetables was simmering and asked him to season it to his liking. “No, I don't know! he replied. Without reacting, I offered to taste it and give me the name of the vegetables he was tasting. I then asked him to qualify each vegetable he had recognized and to associate a flavor with it. Finally, I suggested that he close his eyes, without looking for anything more. To his surprise, he could feel that it lacked just a hint of acidity and a little salt.

Discover your nature as a cook

A few days later, I offered to compose the menu and there was panic, but thanks to this first experience, he was able to overcome his fear and discover in confidence his nature as a cook. His greatest stress being to “miss”; I advised him to let himself be guided by "the taste buds of his heart", because that way he would hear the flavors whispering his way. And, he launched himself timidly at first and imploring validation with his eyes at each of his attempts, but very quickly, he forgot that he was cooking and began to enter into the pleasure of an inner dialogue between him, the ingredients and the cooking . Gradually freeing himself from his fears, he embarked on the path of further exploration of the dish he concocted, tasted the spices at his disposal and, in this letting go, realized that he was more a facilitator than a creator.

I advised him to let himself be guided by "the taste buds of his heart", because that way he would hear the flavors whispering his way.

After half an hour, he asked me to taste it, it was just delicious. A sparkling cuisine, very pop, we felt an unbridled energy, a creativity that was still looking for itself, a shyness that was hidden behind the spices, but above all we recognized the sincerity.

I still remember the taste of this sweetly exotic hotpot with which he had prepared wild rice and carrots with fresh ginger. In the three bowls, he arranged: in the first, the neutral cereal; in the second, this improvised hotpot, and in the third the raw vegetables. We found all the flavors, including the bitterness thanks to a little fresh thyme.

I still remember his face when, in turn, he tasted and exclaimed: “But it's super good! ". He couldn't get over it: “Did I cook that? It's crazy ! And to think that I thought I was useless in the kitchen…” Then, correcting himself, he added with a big smile: “In fact, I didn't do anything, it happened all by itself! »

To forget his fear of missing out, he had been able to enter into "co-creation" with all the elements. Thanks to the space freed from his desire to do well, he had returned to confidence. There is no fear to be had with the kitchen, just let yourself be taken by the hand to realize that it is impossible to miss and that even doing nothing will be good (1).


The cuisine of benevolence is cultivated by forgetting one's fears, the best way to do this is to practice meditation without an object. Just live there, without looking for anything. There is then a relaxation of our whole being which takes place and it is in this space that intuition can slip. And, if you can't, just take a few deep breaths, first inflating your belly, sternum and rib cage and then emptying your lungs after a few seconds pause at full lungs. During the process, visualize the air passing through the heart and, with each pass, feel it open a little more. When we cook like this, we stay in a space of relaxation and we choose the vegetables without thinking too much about what we want to do. During cooking, we taste while closing our eyes, we soak up the flavors and let ourselves be carried away.

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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