Meditating on Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" from a Culinary Perspective

Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 New York Times Best Seller memoir, “Eat Pray Love,” is a movie directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Julia Roberts.  The story centers around Liz Gilbert—played by Julia Roberts—and her pursuit of true happiness through eating in Italy, praying in India, and finding love in Bali.  I will make a culinary journey through Italy for “Eat,” India for “Pray,” and New American cuisine for “Love,” represented respectively by Chef/Owner Dean Gold of Dino, Chef/Owner Sudhir Seth of Passage to India and Spice Xing, and Celebrity Chef/Iron Chef America/Food Network Star/Restaurateur Wolfgang Puck of Spago and The Source.

EAT: As it was the case in Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love,” food can inspire and transform lives for the better, such as with Chef/Owner Dean Gold of Dino. Not only did Chef Gold find his culinary experiences in Italy beneficial for his health, it also inspired him to open an Italian restaurant in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC.  It comes as no surprise that Italy is where Gilbert and Gold went to experience the joy of eating because Italy has such a passionate food culture—spending hours for lunch before an Italian siesta—and maintains much of its culinary identity.  Italy’s culinary pride is bountiful, as evidenced by Parma with its Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto ham as well as national pizza certification for making Neapolitan pizzas.

PRAY: In most religions, food is an important part of rituals.  In the case of India, where Gilbert went to gain deeper understanding of prayer, food is intertwined with religion and Ayurvedic medicine.  In Ayurveda, unlike with traditional Western Medicine, health is seen as an expression of the mind, body, and spirit/consciousness—each balanced and in harmony with one another.  Food is one means of restoring balance in Ayurveda.  One of the most talented and knowledgeable chefs of Indian cuisine—certainly in the Washington, DC area—is Chef/Owner Sudhir Seth of Passage to India and Spice Xing.  Born in New Delhi, Chef Seth’s culinary journey took him around the Subcontinent, Dubai, Shanghai, and to the U.S.  Through all of his travels, Chef Seth reinforced his passion for traditional Indian cuisine and its wisdom—the Ayurvedic roots and overarching philosophy of achieving/maintaining balance.

Food Celebrating Premiere of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love”: A Culinary Journey through...