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Jan 03
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Kitchen Wisdom Expands
photo by Charles Blackhall

photo by Charles Blackhall

Lisa Harris, who has been hosting the Kitchen Wisdom Column for over a year, recently spoke with Judy Sachs-Sullivan about coming on board as the new Co-Host. Some of their conversations are recorded here to give you an idea who she is, and what she plans to bring to this column.

Lisa: Welcome to Kitchen Wisdom! Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Judy: I have been a student of the Druk Sakyong, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche since 1976. I was Personal Chef for the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin and his family, chosen as a Machen for the Sakyong, and have prepared food for dharma centers and others over time.

I studied Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and went to graduate school at the University of Chicago for South Asian Art History. I also graduated from the Professional Chef Program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

Lisa: Can you tell me something about why you decided to become a Co-Host? What brings you to this table?

Judy: My writing connection goes back to graduate school, and wanting to express ideas. I’m more of an anthropologist, and I’m interested in interviewing people who are doing things in the realm of food.

Lisa: Who would you like to interview?

Judy: I’m interested in preserving old stories from the older students for posterity, especially people who served in the Court – and the cooks in particular. What people have given to create the foundation of Shambhala. We’re not going to be around forever, so it’s good to have their stories in writing for the future.

Lisa: You’re more of the ‘old school’. I like bringing that balance to the column, in contrast with my ‘new school’ view.

Judy: Yes. I’m also interested in interviewing some of the older students who have created livelihoods – such as farming, restaurants, coffee shops – and how they find this is part of their dharma livelihood, and what they see is the connection.

Lisa: There are some great examples out there. Even beyond Shambhala.

Judy: Yes. I’m interested in talking to people who are farmers, Tibetans. Talking to people about what they’ve done, and what they’re doing now. What you call the ‘basic-ness’ of work, of setting an example for the rest of the world.

I’d like to explore some examples of people who hire people with disabilities, or who have been in jail and re-train them to be cooks. All sorts of situations that are examples of how to make the world a little better. We call that enlightened society, we call that developing basic goodness, or bodhichitta – whatever you want to call it. To me it doesn’t matter what name you give it, and what tradition it’s in – we can learn from all those people.

I also want bring in part of the Tibetan tradition – our teachers are Tibetan – and monastic cooking, what it was like in Tibet. It is also part of our history.

Lisa: What are some of your relationships with food? And how are they intertwined with your Buddhist views?

Judy Sachs-Sullivan in Pompeii

Judy Sachs-Sullivan in Pompeii

Judy: I have had a passion for cooking since I was a child, and started to learn early from my mother who was a very good cook. She and I used to watch Julia Child cook on television back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Chinese food was about as exotic as it got!

I dislike “bad, cheap food” (as stated in the don chants) which I see as a symptom of degeneration in our society of speed and aggression. I am interested in international food, as I have a “yen” for travel and love trying new foods and visiting marketplaces around the world. I like working with challenges of today’s modern diets, and working with those that have obstacles to eating in their diet.

Lisa: What other experiences would you like to share?

Judy: I’d like to do something about Oryoki sometime…how that was created and why. I think my Seminary or the one before was the first Oryoki Seminary.

Lisa: There are so many food challenges now. I doubt if you faced them when you were Trungpa Rinpoche’s student.

Judy: No. I don’t even remember anything vegetarian. You got what you got. Some people had some extra food in the fridges for whatever dietary things they had – like low blood sugar, so they could go to the kitchen to get food.

We had around 300 people back then in Seminary, and everybody would have to be served. Lunches took a really long time. And, cutting through the whole neurosis in your mind, like you’re starving. You’re dealing with your mind in terms of food and accepting whatever you get, no matter what it tastes like. And, whatever neurosis comes up – there’s always tons of neuroses around food, for sure.

Lisa: I look forward to having your perspective, your sense of history, and views here in the Kitchen Wisdom column. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Judy: I am also currently doing research for a book project that involves the culinary arts. So, I’m doing a couple things now that are stepping out of my comfort zone, and feeling that vulnerability as well as interest and excitement too. It’s taking a leap beyond what I usually do – this and going to Asia to work on my project. So it’s kind of both – excitement but also you’re vulnerable.

Shambhala Times is delighted to welcome Judy on board to work with Lisa on our Kitchen Wisdom Column. Welcome, Judy!

If you are interested in contributing your Kitchen Wisdom, please contact Lisa at: [email protected].

To read other entries in this column, please see: Kitchen Wisdom.

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