Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Rumi in the kitchen

I usually start my day by reading something penned by a spiritual master, to nourish my heart and establish a generous and joyful attitude for the day. Often it's the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi, especially as translated by Coleman Barks. Rumi has for sometime now been the best-selling poet in the world, and I give Coleman Barks much of the credit for that. He has used his great wisdom and skill to help make the ancient poems accessible to modern Americans.

I'm not fixed on any exclusive religious tradition in my readings, though after decades of "seeking," it is Buddhism and the mystical strains in all the world's religions that have the greatest draw for me. They all share the belief that the Divine is everywhere, within and outside us; that our lives are steeped in Spirit; that all stories about who or what god may be are just fairy tales we tell ourselves. God is Mystery itself, beyond our powers to know and describe, and we are alive within it. That very idea makes me feel excited about life and grateful for another day.

This morning I read (for the hundredth time) one of Rumi's great cooking metaphors -- a poem about life as a boiling soup, god/mystery as the cook, and human beings as chickpeas. I trust that Coleman Barks and his publishers would forgive my excerpting it without their written permission (I know Rumi would approve).

Here's the question this poem planted in my mind this morning: How would things be different if we believed that the difficult things we experience actually had a great purpose, to transform us into ever more lovely and vital human beings?


A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

"Don't you try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you.
I'm giving you flavor
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden?
That was for this."

... Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
"Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can't do this by myself..."



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