Filed in Community, Food

An Interview with Nick Nauman

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ProfessionChef
Age: 28
Location: Brooklyn, NY

How were you introduced to Buddhism? I was raised Catholic, but when I was a teenager, a lot of the fiction I liked referenced Buddhism, like Salinger and Hesse and Kerouac. So I started investigating a bit. And then I got really interested in linguistics and semiotic theory for a while, and when I started seeing overlap with Western theory and Buddhist philosophy, I got pretty excited. When I went to college, I started going to a weekly meditation group and taking classes about Eastern religion.

Buddhism made sense to me because I could apply to my own life so many of the descriptions of reality and perception and the world, especially those that subverted what I saw as Catholicism’s reification of the material world and its social hierarchies. 

As part of your college studies you spent several months traveling through Asia and living in a Burmese monastery in Bodhgaya, India. How did this experience change your understanding of the dharma and yourself ? I went to India because I was interested in shattering the loftiness shrouding the Buddhism that came to me through its American history: perfect truths and small-h holy people, peace and love and incense and floating folks in the lotus position. I found plenty of what I was looking for: monks who ate meat and made sexual passes at fellow students, no-bullshit money-chasing sellers of laminated sutras and framed bodhi leaves. And meanwhile, here was the dharma, not challenged one iota by any of these “unsavory” or “illusion-busting” things I observed.

This experience left an indelible imprint of dharma-as-living on me. I met and practiced with so many people who, in whatever way they could or allowed themselves to, were engaging the dharma as their primary way of being in the world. 

You’re a chef at Eat, a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. How did you become interested in cooking? I remember once when I was 9 or 10, I put a can of Chicken of the Sea in a pan with some vegetable oil and every spice in my parents’ cabinet and called it Tuna Surprise. That blew my mind. It tasted different than anything I’d ever eaten, because only I knew exactly what was in it. Then I declared myself a vegetarian when I was 13, but my family was not interested in giving up meat, so I started making things for myself. Now I view cooking as a creative endeavor...

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