My dad loved tear-off Zen calendars. Each day, he’d tear off a page and save it if he thought it spoke to him. Eventually, two thick stacks hung on the wall of his home office. Perhaps he once intended to switch these up regularly for renewed inspiration, but for as long as I can remember, the same two sayings stayed put.
The first: Life is painful. Suffering is optional.
The internet tells me this quote comes from Sylvia Boorstein, who is a psychotherapist and a “Buddhist spiritualist.” This makes sense, since my father was both of these as well. He loved this quote so much that he made it his e-mail signature. I imagine how often these words must have come to him as he worked with clients struggling through their unimaginable pain. But I never contemplated the quote deeply until my father passed away suddenly on October 1, 2013. I’ve thought of it often since then, weighing the innumerable joys of his life against the pain of his passing. How can I choose not to suffer through it?
The second quote on my father’s wall: “There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape-Nuts on principle.”
English writer G.K. Chesterton is responsible for that one. Combine this with the first quote, and you have my dad in a nutshell. He was a gourmand for sure, though not a snobbish one. He’d try anything once, especially if it was so spicy that it brought tears to his eyes. Whether doctoring up a frozen pizza to eat in front of the TV, spending all day cooking a multi-course family meal, or studying four-star menus ahead of a European vacation, meals were always an Event—an occasion for simple joy.
Though he may have been an impulsive eater, he was also a compulsive planner—especially when it came to cooking. He saved every menu from every big meal he cooked over the course of at least five years.
And now that he’s gone, one small chapter in the great big book of missing him is his delicious cooking. His poker-night chili, his seafood gumbo, his spicy Thai curries, his delectable salsas—all a part of my childhood, of my warmest memories and biggest milestones with my family.
Lately, I find myself seeking Zen in the kitchen. No matter what else is going on, there’s a simple joy I get from cooking, whether just for my boyfriend and myself on a weekday or occasionally for my whole family on Sunday nights. It’s the same joy I knew he felt as well.
So with his cookbooks and recipe clippings in hand, I’ve decided to channel the pain of loss into something positive. Something edible. For this blog, I’ll be documenting my take on his recipes for the world to taste. His spirit lives on in so many ways, but I want my cooking to be one of them.
And, as he was so fond of saying ahead of many great adventures—it’s gonna be big fun.Google+