Buried treasure: Cooking with love
Mindfulness is not just a practice for our yoga mats or meditation cushions. It is something we can cultivate during our daily lives. Where better to start than whilst we are preparing food for ourselves and those we love? This is a favourite post from the 2010 archive, which is why I like to call it “buried treasure”.
Buddhists say that the way we do things, influences the results. If we cook with love, we transmit that love into the food, and into those who eat the food. If we cook in mindful awareness, then we can quietly observe with our senses rather than forgetting the cookies in the oven, or adding too much salt because we are distracted. When we are there in the moment, we can be responsive and creative. We are are aware, we can consciously season our food with love.
The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Or in yesterday’s case, not pudding but hummous. I was cross yesterday: tired, over stretched and trying to do too much with too few mama resources. And so it was with huge anger and resentment I made my little boy some hummous. My temper was sour, so I added too much lemon. Then I tried a quick fix by chucking in a pinch of sugar. What I should have done was to calmly detach myself from the situation, taken a few breaths and come back to preparing food with love, rather than banging and slamming and making inedible food. My little girl took one mouthful and spat it out in disgust!
I remember fondly the part of Laura Esquivel’s beautiful book Like Water for Chocolate when Tita cooks her passionate emotions into the food – once serving up a rose petal sauce which made everyone passionately amorous, and another day a dish which made the assembled party distraught with misery, as though the tears she cried into the pot as she stirred it were infectious.
I am thinking a lot about food at the moment: cooking and the production of the basic foodstuffs. If we accept that the way in which food is produced has an impact on us, not only our physical health but our emotional and psychological well being, then it is vital that we support food production practices which support people, the environment and the earth.
It is crucial that we cook and eat at home to consciously produce well being for our families. Perhaps that means cooking more, and ensuring you eat together at least once a day. Or perhaps (note to self) it means cooking a little less, having fewer expectations, a little less greed, but doing what we do with total devotion to ourselves, our families and giving thanks for the food, the animals that gave their lives, the farmers who grew the vegetables. Of cherishing our foods as we cherish ourselves.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the living Buddhist philosopher asks us to contemplate an orange. What do you see? Not just an orange, but the rain which fell to make it grow, the earth the tree, the woman who picked it, the man who packed it, the lorry and the roads it passed along, the wife who fed the lorry driver, the work we did to make the money to buy the orange, the factory where the bag was made to hold the oranges together, the oil which it was made from, the depths of the earth from whence that came. In everything he asks us to contemplate the deep interconnectedness of all things.
There is nothing simple or inevitable about the food that lands on our plates. It is a combination of love, hard work, miracles of nature and good fortune which allow us to have such an abundance of food when so many others do not. At this time of feasting, let us feast with awareness and gratitude.