What 'Eat, Pray, Love' Can Teach Us About Food


Courtesy of Cat Cora

To try a recipe for bucatini Amatriciana with bacon from celebrity chef Cat Cora, click here.

I began writing this a few days ago, and much of what is written below was in progress when last night, as I was half asleep, my husband nudged me to say, "You have to watch this—it is very funny." I began watching Louis Black, the comedian, on the Daily Show mocking the craze of Eat, Pray, Love, and I might add rightfully so when it is the theme for a 24-hour shopping network special where you can purchase anything from diaries that look like the ones used in the movie to the words "eat, pray, love" in rhinestones. His skit was laugh-out-loud funny and made me think twice about jumping on the bandwagon ... but my thoughts and experiences are sincere, and when I spoke to Cat Cora about the movie she shared a wonderful recipe for Bucatini Amatriciana with Bacon from her new cookbook, Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist. So here goes, at the risk of seeming commercial.

The three words of the title made an instant connection with me: they conjure up most
of my basic make-up, the need to feed and nurture.

Anyone who knows me knows that when I go to New York I see three movies for every one restaurant I visit. As much as I Iive and love food, even more of an escape for me is time in front of the big screen. When the book Eat, Pray, Love came out I think my sister Andree read it first then passed it on to my sister Mary, and we are still in discussion of who gave it to our mother, who then passed it on to me. At any rate, a sign of a book's worth is when it is well-worn with turned-down pages. Although it was a very good book, it is because it was the last book that I remember my mother reading and the last book that we all shared that it will endure for me as a book worth reading.

The main character in the book discovers that spirituality, fulfillment, and happiness can sometimes be found in a simple plate of food. That is an absolute in my life and it is the way I love. I believe that as we go through life we each have our personal definitions of very simple words. The three words of the title made an instant connection with me: they conjure up most of my basic make-up, the need to feed and nurture. This is what instantly came to mind when I thought of my definition of these three words and their connection to my family and friends:

Eat. Let me prepare something for you, let me prepare something to make you feel better. Whether you have a sore throat, skinned knee, hurt feelings, or broken heart I can feed you and make it better.

Pray. For the ones I love, I pray for your safety, well-being, and happiness. Then my mother's prayer kicks in—please don't go out after midnight, nothing good happens after midnight, all intersections are dangerous, please be safe always.

Love. I am going to nurture and feed you and protect you. I will make you whatever dish it is that makes you feel loved. If you don't have one, I will create one. I just want to show you love by nurturing you with what I do best—cooking.

I thought of many people who might understand my feelings, and all of the chefs I know, I thought of Cat Cora, not only a great cook, book author, an Iron Chef, and a person with many other accolades in the food world, but also a Southern mother of four boys. And I knew a recipe from her would be even more appropriate for this post, as she has deep Mediterranean roots, growing up in a Greek family in Jackson, Mississippi. So when I asked her what Eat, Pray, Love means to her, she said:

As a mother it is about eating together, praying together and loving together. Our family does all three and as parents it is our responsibility to teach our 4 boys how to do those things. And as far as eating and cooking for 4 boys, three words, "buying in bulk!" As a chef, I eat and taste what I cook, I pray my guests like it and I love the fact that I get to do what I love everyday. As a woman I celebrate food by eating what I want in moderation, pray that it settles in the right places as I grow older and continue learning to love my body at the age of 43.

Although my mother and I both found the book to be much more about one person's awareness of self with regard to her own time, place, and personal relationships, it certainly touched us. I know when I see the movie or make Cat's Bucatini Amatriciana with Bacon that I will miss my mother and wish she were here with me, as I do every day. My mother not only taught us to eat, pray, and love, but she gave us another gift—laughter. So I know when I think of the book I will also laugh out loud and think of Louis Black's take on it.

Recipe: Cat Cora's Bucatini Amatriciana With Bacon