A Review of the New Book by James F. Twyman
We experience many incredible moments of opportunity in our lives, notes James Twyman in his new book from Hay House, Love, God, and the Art of French Cooking: “brief encounters and events that have the potential to transform us. But these moments are often missed or disregarded; we are too busy and too harried, or perhaps too fearful of what we may discover about ourselves to embrace the experience.” This is the story of how just such an opportunity came his way, and he was able to slow down, embrace it, and learn from it.
Twyman’s story begins as he arrives at a Bed and Breakfast near Toronto for a weekend romantic adventure with his latest prospect, Michele. But the climax of the story occurs in the first few sentences of the book. It was over before it began. Michele, completely fed up with him, took the car and disappeared, leaving him stranded – like Dante awakening lost in the woods, not knowing where he was or where he was going. But rather than Virgil appearing to guide him, his guide came in the form of the owner of the B&B, a superb French chef named Roger Dufau.
In the late ‘70’s there was the classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which Robert Pirsig used the experience of taking a motorcycle trip with his son, and being impeccable in his relationship with the motorized machine, as a context in which to discuss philosophy, spirituality, and impeccability in one’s life. Twyman’s story, though a bit less lofty in its spiritual goals (he is concerned more with the personal level of his relationships with women), bears some resemblance to that earlier book. But rather than learning about life through the study of motorcycle maintenance, Twyman learns through the medium of cooking.
Many years ago I wrote in a book about health that – despite the many preceding pages of useful nutritional advice I had just given – there are really only three necessary rules of nutrition: If it’s a color you’ve never seen in nature, I suggested, don’t eat it; If you are reading a long list of ingredients and you can’t pronounce the words, don’t eat it; and finally, trumping even these (in my opinion) very worthwhile pieces of advice, the most important “rule” of all is simply this: a meal prepared and served with love will always be good for you. This is what Dufau teaches Twyman: “So that’s my formula,” he says, “start with the best, natural ingredients, and always cook with love.”
In fact, he says, that’s the secret “not only to French cooking, but to everything in life.”
The first lesson is to teach Twyman that the proper way to get the best results with garlic is not to cut the clove into pieces, but to smash it: this allows all the juice, the essence, the goodness of the garlic, to flow out and make the dish wonderful (rather than staying “locked up inside.”) This metaphor, of course, is extended to Twyman’s life: if he wishes to stop repeating his same endless cycle of failed relationships, the first step is that he must be smashed and everything that’s been locked up inside him through the years has to be allowed to flow. Dufau’s piercing insights and uncensored observations do just that, and Twyman begins the journey of self-awareness and healing.
On the journey, Twyman learns much about cooking, but more importantly he learns a great deal about serving others, he learns about appreciation and gratitude, he learns about passion, intensity and courage, he learns that withholding love from others is a consequence of withholding love from oneself. He faces his hidden memories and fears, he has long, insightful conversations with several women in his life, and even travels to France alongside Dufau just to have lunch with his Teacher’s Teacher in a small café in Paris!
The book is written in a light, gentle manner that allows the inner meaning of Dufau’s teachings to slip quietly into the reader’s unconscious while one simply reads along with an interesting story full of romance, travel, good food, and good wine. It only takes a couple of sittings to read, and is well worth your time.
James F. Twyman is the NY Times bestselling author of fifteen books including The Barn Dance and The Moses Code. He is known around the world as The Peace Troubadour, having performed The Peace Concert in war torn countries like Iraq, Bosnia and Israel. He has also produced or directed four films including the award winning “Indigo,” and the film version of “The Moses Code.”
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