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Edward Espe Brown

Excerpts from Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings: Recipes and Reflections

Stories of Ed's life and practice at Tassajara and with his teacher, Shunryu Suzuki

Introduction by DC

This wonderful book is now (4/03) out of print. I'm sure it will go back in print at some point. Along with the recipes, Ed tells many fine stories from his life and his days with Suzuki Roshi. These are excellent, quite personal practice stories. I remember when I was working on Crooked Cucumber I showed them to my now ex, Elin, who read them and said, shaking her head, that I should try to write such touching accounts. My agent would also urge me to get a more you-are-there feel and would send me Ed's stories as an example. Even back when I was head monk at Tassajara, Baker Roshi used to urge me to give direct, sincere, body and experience oriented lectures like Ed had the prior practice period. I just had to tell them I'd do my best but that I couldn't be Ed who oozes passion and depth. This is just one of the ways in which my dharma brother Ed (we were ordained together by Suzuki Roshi not long before he died) has been a teacher for me. I used to be jealous of him I think, but no more. I've accepted my fate. And maybe I learned something.

When I asked Ed if he'd let me interview him for this archive, he said that pretty much what he could remember of note was contained in these stories. He sent them to me before the book was finished, so they're in a slightly different form. No matter they're fine. I went through the book comparing what was there with what he'd sent me and decided to scan some more material from the book to make more complete his stories from the days when Tassajara was young and Suzuki was alive - that's pretty much what this historical archive is about.

I met Ed in 1966 when I came to the Zen Center. Though the drive to buy Tassajara was just beginning, and the ZC wouldn't own it till late December, he'd already been there cooking and learning that summer. I was on the early skeleton crew and was working some days in the tiny old kitchen there when Ed came down to take over. I worked with him a lot in those early days. I did a whole lot of searching for sources of food and equipment and supplies and buying and making deals for the kitchen and the guest dinning room (which is where I worked when there were guests). I was super high energy and frequently pretty manic. He was quite tolerant of me. We were working with a fraction of the staff they use there today - and a fraction of the space to do it in. It was a blast, but we were so overwhelmed with the workload that I would recruit guests to help us - or people who had wandered in to check the place out. They'd frequently become students. Ed would take them in and teach them to cut vegetables. Almost every meal, it seemed, I'd go to the old shack kitchen and tell Ed about late or unexpected guests who were hungry and he would grit his teeth and roll his eyes and wipe his brown and grunt and then he'd say he could do it. He never turned anyone down that I can remember. Also, people were ga-ga over the food he cooked - the bread, the casseroles, the desserts. It was an exciting and inspiring time.

And here are Ed's stories. - DC

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