Spiritual Cooking

23 Thu, 2010 § Leave a comment

Food is magical: I cannot tell you exactly how it works, but it brings people together.

At the heart of most holidays & special occasions lies an aromatic table of thoughtfully prepared delectables.  Often the most cherished bonding occurs in the kitchen.  It brings together family & friends in labor filled with love & often laughter.

Even as one of the most used, loved & crucial rooms in the home, situations in the kitchen can quickly become intense.  Sometimes quarters can feel tight in even the largest spaces & timing is always of the essence.  The perfectionist in me surfaces, stressing over pleasing everyone, fearing a new or creative spin on a recipe will flop & frustrating over the reality that Dave is not a mind reader. 😉

Others may be tired from a long day or sense the impatient tummies of hungry little ones.  Too often, the love intended to be infused into the meal vanishes in a haze of anxiety.  Other times, it becomes less about nourishing, & the intention turns toward impacting.

Obviously, I am passionate about food & cooking.  I could easily — & have guiltily been known to — spend all day planning meals, browsing recipes, wandering the grocery store or farmer’s market in search of inspiration, experimenting in the kitchen & enjoying the results.

Pursuance of healthy living was the initiator of this passion.  Feeling plain lousy — even though I ate “healthily” — is what began my journey toward truly evaluating what I was putting in my body & then listening to my body’s response.  It truly is a journey — transitioning subtly, ever evolving — as I learn more & more about food, its source & impact & continue to listen to my body.

When my search for healthy eating habits guided me toward more & more whole foods, I realized the joy of cooking slowly & simply.  Food became fun again & not a constant ordeal over micro-nutrient composition & obsessive calorie counting.  The answer was simple: eat real food & make most of it myself.

It completely altered how I perceived food & created a ritual of planning meals, shopping for food, preparing it & appreciating its journey.  Cooking with love & without ego is an intention that has enhanced my passion for food; it is also a point I need to revisit & strive to embrace more.

My ego has weaseled its way back into my kitchen as I am stressing over the outcome rather than enjoying the process.  As I flex my “culinary prowess” ;), I worry about impacting or impressing those that eat it more so than nourishing them.

This has been a longstanding struggle for me: to let go of the outcome & embrace Seva, the practice of serving others with no expectation of reward or recognition.  Even with this reminder I wrote years ago, hanging in our kitchen, I still “forget”.

Essence of Seva:

Let the Ego Fall Away,

Leaving only Peace.

Though difficult, it is liberating to let go of my attachment to the outcome.  Rather than a display of culinary prowess, cooking can be an offering of love.

*Plan meals that are physically supportive & nourishing, considering the season — even the day — moods, activities, energy levels, etc of those who will partake.

*Bring awareness to the kitchen.  Completely be in the task at hand whether washing an apple or slicing carrots julienne.  Check in with my body & how it feels.  Am I tensing?  Do I need to rest my feet?  Where is my mind — my thoughts?  Perhaps even incorporate an Asana practice before or during meal preparation.

*Carry this awareness into dining.  How often do we simply inhale a meal that has been painstakingly prepared?  Savor each bite.  Eat slowly & meditatively, observing the flavors.  Take a moment & pause before eating; really think about the journey of the food on my plate, from birth or seed to death or harvest.  This silent prayer or offering of gratitude enlightened & enhanced my personal concept of ethical eating more than anything else.

*Reconnect with the underlying joy of the experience & learn to stay compassionate, centered & loving.  [I tend to lose my cool in the kitchen sometimes, if you know what I mean.]

Rather than shooting for culinary brilliance, I am coaxing myself to reach for more humble aspirations: Love First, then Serve, Feed, Nourish.

~

When you let go of the outcome: all that is left is Love…& the best kind of food.

~

What is the tone of your kitchen?  What are your thoughts on spiritual cooking?

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