I’ve been reading Ruth Reichl for years. First as the restaurant critic in The New York Times, and then as the editor of Gourmet magazine. She’s an excellent writer. She loves food. And she also has a way of making the connection between food and life.
When the recession hit in 2008 Gourmet magazine, a 70 year institution, was closed down. Suddenly, this talented editor and writer was without a job. Where to turn? What would she do?
Rather than writing about fancy restaurants or the latest culinary trend, Ruth Reichl headed to her kitchen. She started cooking. And cooking. And then cooking some more. She has recently come out with a cookbook titled Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year. There are some wonderful recipes in the book I intend to try in the upcoming months, but that’s not what really impressed me.
Running throughout the book is her story of how she coped with a year of being unemployed, living in a house in upstate New York, looking at her calendar and realizing she didn’t have any appointments because no one wanted to meet with her anymore. What do you do when life marginalizes you? When you break your ankle? When you go from being important to unimportant. In Reichl’s case, she went to the kitchen and began experiencing the joy of cooking meals for her family and friends.
I’ve often thought that cooking is a way of practicing prayer. You cut. You chop. You build flavors in a pan. You plate. You serve. You clean up. Sometimes you prepare a meal for yourself. Sometimes you share it with your friends. Cooking is a way of caring for the world. It also requires three things essential to the spiritual life: creativity, attention and generosity.
Take a Breath today. If you are a cookbook person, and if you only buy one cookbook this year, then buy Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year. And if you don’t want to buy a cookbook, no problem, but at least head to the kitchen and enjoy cooking something. Eggs. Toast. A grilled cheese sandwich. A casserole. A meatloaf. Mashed potatoes and creamed peas. Tacos. Cook what you love. Cook what you want to share.
And here’s a little secret – You can find God anywhere, but you can especially find God in the kitchen.