I have been thinking some more about the quote from Basho though I reflected on last week. Matsuo Basho, a Japanese Haiku poet, once wrote, “When journeying upon the path of wisdom, do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. Seek the meaning behind their footsteps, and not upon the steps themselves. For in seeking the footsteps you shall be glancing only upon the next footprint. And you’re sure to stumble upon an unforeseen obstacle. But in seeking the meaning behind their footsteps you’re sure to see ahead; comparable to looking up while walking. Thus allowing you to easily maneuver around the hurdles on the path you walk. …And if you walk like this long enough, you’ll one day, to your surprise, find yourself among the wise.”
This time, my epiphany came when I realized that the cookbook I am studying is a source of wisdom, but not necessarily giving me the wisdom I am seeking. I have always had a passion for Mexican food, or what I thought was Mexican food. We never age it growing up, but when I moved to Texas, I was quickly introduced to the jalapeno pepper with whom I still have a close and loving relationship. Then I was introduced to what I was told was Mexican food: burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas. I enjoyed them tremendously especially with some rice and refried beans and tortillas. When I moved to Athens, Georgia to pursue my doctoral studies I found a little Mexican restaurant that had what I was told by the owner carried the Tex Mex kind of food, but also authentic Mexican and I began to be exposed to some dishes I had never heard of before like Tres Leches and Chilaquilas.
When I went to learn how to make my own tortillas, I picked up a cookbook at a garage sale that said it was Authentic Mexican cooking. It had some great recipes in them, but they all had that Tex Mex kind of feel to them and I kept feeling as if I was missing something. It was not until recently that I was able to capture what I was missing. I was reading a copy of Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican that I realized that not all cookbooks are going to lead me to the wisdom I am seeking in the same way. What I learned I could do with tomatoes, onions, garlic and chilies was amazing. I could mix these four ingredients in their rawest of states. I could roast them, boil, and even fry a puree made out of them. The only way I could remember learning how to use them was in a salsa or pico de gallo, which I learned would get me something very different in Mexico then it would in the US.
The recipes I had for tortillas were completely different then how I learned to make them from Bayless’ cookbook and so much better. I was not only learning about the amazing ingredients, which I had never heard of, such as epazote (definitely one of my newest friends), and new techniques to try.
As I sat here and looked at the array of cookbooks I had before me, I realized I had been on a similar journey spiritually. I had started with one book, which was supposed to teach me everything I needed to know. However, the more I read, the more I came to realize that so many other sacred writings had something to teach me as well. So I am learning on this journey never to stop seeking, to look in more then one place, and to be on a constant search for the wisdom I am seeking about life and about cooking.