People talk about food a lot. Maybe you’ve pick up on phrases like, “I always decide what to cook.” “Prep takes too long.” “I’m not a good cook.” “No one appreciates my cooking.” “I’m tired of cooking.” “Why doesn’t anyone help me cook?” Maybe you’ve thought or said these things yourself.
To be honest, I too have thought and said these things! It can be pretty normal to experience these feelings when we prepare meals if we think of cooking as another thing we have to do. But what if we began to re-frame these judgments of ourselves and/or our skills?
The Institute for Functional Medicine says, Food is Connection (IFM, 2015). Food is larger than just items we prepare for our tables. Imagine where food begins. For example, a bright red apple. Where did its seed come from? Who planted it? Imagine the soil in which it grew. Was the soil dark and nutrient rich? How much sun or rain did it absorb? Who harvested and who transported it, what was their intention? When it arrived at the supermarket, who unpacked and put it on display before you purchased it? What was their objective as they arranged the apple display? Why did you choose this particular apple instead of the myriad of other apples? What caught your eye about it? Its color? Its texture? Its scent?
Our food touches and interacts with nature, people, and environments. A food’s history extends beyond our initial expectation and far deeper than we normally acknowledge. Each time the apple comes into contact with a person or an environment, it is infused with that situation’s essence and/or meaning and this ultimately affects how we feel when we see it, when we prep it and even after we ingest it.
Consider food preparation. Perhaps you have heard, or even said something like, “My Grandma’s apple pie is so flavorful, I’m not sure how she does it, but it is delicious.” Have you wondered why Grandma’s pies taste so fabulous? Imagine her as she lovingly bakes for her family. She smiles softly as she carefully chops up the apples. As she kneads the dough, she infuses it with joy and happiness as she imagines her family and friends enjoying the fruits of her labor. She breathes deeply and delights in the flavorful scent as the pie bakes, and she hums a little tune as she takes it out of the oven, and gently places it on the counter. Finally, Grandma pauses to appreciate how the apple's juices bubble at the edges of the golden brown crust.
Imagine another scenario… A different Grandma making the same apple pie recipe. This Grandma truly loves her family too, but she is busy, she chops the apples hurriedly while listing all the things she needs to do next. While she kneads her dough, she becomes irritated that it’s taking too long and smacks it around hastily. She thinks, “This pie is a lot of work. These grand kids better enjoy it.” While the pie bakes, she jumps on her phone to answer her emails. Finally, Grandma tosses the baked pie on the counter and sighs as she moves on to the next task.
In a side-by-side taste-test, both pies appear the same. But which pie might taste more flavorful? The pie filled with love, joy, happiness, and patience? Or the pie filled with annoyance, distraction, and impatience?
How often do we charge into preparing nourishment for family; never quite being fully present in our actions? How many times have we used impatience, irritation, lack of confidence, or apathy as an ingredient in our recipes? No judgement here, just awareness.
The next time you prepare any meal try this (it won’t take any more time, just a little mindfulness):
Breathe deeply and feel the precious air flow freely to your lungs, and as you breathe out become aware of what you are prepping or cooking. How does it look, smell, and feel? Can you imagine how it tastes in this moment? Breathe in a positive purpose that you wish to season the food with and breathe out any negativity that may surface. As you wash a vegetable, notice the warmth of the water as it rushes over your hands, the roughness of the brush bristles as they glide over its slippery skin. What kind of experience would you like to infuse into your nourishing meal? Maybe it's love, laughter, healing, satiety, calm, or patience? What do these emotions feel like in your heart and mind? Breathe in, sense them in your body and spirit. Be kind to yourself. No judgement of your skills, no worry about the outcome, just presence and feeling what you are doing. If you find yourself distracted, it’s ok, just breathe in and try again. This will take practice, but your effort will be worth it, and your nourishment will not only sustain your family and friends, it will also sustain yourself.
Please let me know what happens. How do/did you feel when preparing fare for your family, or for yourself? What did you notice? Tell me how it feels to be judgment-free?