In my last article, I shared five of my favorite foods that support a sound body, mind, and spirit. This week, I’d like to switch the focus from what I eat to how I eat.
Most Americans do not know how to eat.
Well, let me rephrase that. Most Americans eat a certain way: fast, efficiently, and based on sustenance. This is definitely one way to eat. It is easy on the wallet, fitted for lives set to fast-forward, and satisfies hunger. With all that said, I would argue most elephant readers don’t aspire to follow or continue eating in this fashion.
As I have come to understand my personal diet, I recognize the importance of its extension beyond specific foods and into the realm of practice. A lot of my dietary evolutions have included techniques and philosophies that guide what I eat, how I eat, and how I do not eat. I’ve compiled a list of 5 different ideas that have helped me obtain a healthier lifestyle and greater appreciation for food.
1. Learn to Cook
Ah…the elusive pastime. A favorite amongst failed New Year’s Eve resolutions; this little statement is one of the most stigmatized phrases in the English language. Partly due to gender issues and a desperate attempt to dignify a profession, cooking has received a treatment of black and white extremes: either you’re a chef or you love to order out.
Taboo’d as it may seem, cooking is pretty easy. Before enrolling in culinary school, I thought I was signing up to learn the gastronomic equivalence of rocket science. What quickly dawned on me was the realization that cooking was simple. The most demanding part about cooking is paying attention. In fact, I am 100% confident in admitting all my mistakes in kitchen are because I was not paying attention. As long as you can stay focused and read directions, you can cook.
So when approaching cooking, think of it as an achievable task. You’re only cooking for a few people at max and you’re not trying to take home the Iron Chef champion title. Simple techniques like sautéing and steaming paired with average cutting skills and a few exotic spices will impress anyone. I laugh sometimes at the comments I get for cooking ordinary meals. If those giving me praise only knew how easy it was, they’d pick up a pan and join in.
2. Shop More, Buy Less
This may sound counterintuitive, but when I was living abroad I saw the cultural advantages of shopping more often and buying less food per trip to the grocer. In Spain, everyday I watched my host mom bring home a small bag of fresh groceries. She’d be carrying an unlabelled brown paper bag with a warm baguette and fluffy green carrots tops sticking out.
Now I know this is as nostalgic as it gets and that many of us can not and will never run to the grocery store twice a day, but what I learned from mi madre was that we can enjoy fresher foods, while avoiding wastefulness by making a couple trips to the store a week. And you won’t have to worry about that pipe-dream eggplant you bought that’s now forgotten, dying a slow death in the depths of your vegetable drawer. When you shop more and buy less, you’ll start to shop for better items, as your grand totals will seem lower. This leads me to number 3.
3. Spend More
Another big taboo in the world of food is the almighty budget, an extremely touchy subject that most people like to avoid. It is probably the greatest limiting factor in obtaining a better diet. Most Americans spend around 10% of their disposable income on food. This figure has dropped significantly in recent times (from 25% in 1933). The rationale goes like this: “We need to save money by buying less food.” This could not be more backwards. If you really think about it, all of your daily tasks, including how much money you earn, are dependent on your ability to execute them. This execution is directly related to how much energy you can expel. Energy has a direct correlation to the quality of food you eat. If you are cutting corners on the quality of your food, you are ultimately limiting your potential to a better life.
4. Buy Organic
One of the most “expensive” things you can do in a supermarket is buy organic. Yet at the same time, it is one of the best investments you can make. This topic has by now seen its glory days, but before you are tempted to skim over this number, take a look at why this practice is essential to living a healthier life.
Let’s take a step back. Instead of thinking of organic food as a high quality premium, lets see it as the norm. In fact, before the Green Revolution of the 1940s, organic food was the only food that existed. From this perspective, let’s now tell the truth about conventional food: it is below normal quality.
Filled with chemicals from fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, these conventional foods are below par. When you choose a non-organic food, you are committing to eating something that is unhealthy. Just because it delivers some of the same vitamins and nutrients, does not mean it outweighs the potential hazards inherent in its production. From a health perspective, there is nothing worse you can do for your body than choosing to eat conventional foods. (Alright, maybe eating poison is worse).
5. Cook With Love
Alright, alright, calm down. I can literally hear your corneas scraping the tops of you eye sockets. As hard as it is to accept, cooking with that warm, gooey, all-around grand feeling of love is by far the most important idea out of this entire list. If you’d prefer to call it something else, we could rename it cooking with intention.
The idea behind this is that your thoughts will manifest into your actions. Take for example anger. If you cook with anger, you’re most likely going to be cleaning up a big mess, soothing red hot burn marks, and bleeding. On the opposite hand, if you’re cooking with some good, old fashioned romance you’ll be gliding along flowingly, singing songs and breaking into mini waltzes. Now that we can see how thought affects actions, we can follow the rabbit a bit further.
Think of your thoughts as vibration. Vibrations continuously emanate, like a ripple in a pond, touching everything in its path. Now lets go a step further and realize that everything in our world is a vibration (based on the quantum physics discovery that all matter is mostly non-matter; potential matter). Now we see that our bodies and food both have a vibration. So with this understanding, when you are cooking dinner, your personal vibrations interact with the vibrations of your food.
In this way, food can take on a vibration. Don’t believe this can happen? Think of the last time someone honked a horn at you. How did that feel? For me, it is never pleasant, very jarring, and entices anger out of nowhere. This is because a physical vibration was passed on to me from another person. This concept is applied to everything we do and everything we experience, including cooking.
What makes it so important to cook with love is that you are most likely going to be consuming the food you cook. So not only is the food metaphysically affecting you, but it is literally becoming a part of your physical body. If you have just eaten chilled gazpacho with a side of hate, you’re probably going to have some spiritual heartburn. And as the saying goes: Cooking with love always tastes better.
Although these ideas are great in creating a sound practice, they are nothing without the most important rule: truly appreciating food. I will leave this rich topic for my next article, but until then give these 5 concepts a shot and tell me what you think in the comments below. I’d also love to hear any food philosophies you live by. Much love.