December 11, 2014

When Cooking is Not so Joyous: How to be Mindful in the Kitchen.

Grannies Kitchen/Flickr

“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.”

~Thich Naht Hanh

It’s crunch time.

No, not those crunches. Sheesh, don’t you know they’re out of fashion now?

And not crunch time at the office, unless you consider my kitchen an office, which it is, especially because my desk is in it, under all of the school papers, leftover mail, craft supplies and overdue library books.

It’s dinner-making time.

It has a way of sneaking up and biting me in the butt every day, except on those rare days when I’ve done my menu plan and actually know the answer to that question of all questions: “What is for dinner?”

The four-year-old superhero is ringing a newly found jingle bell and singing along to Christmas tunes more loudly than my afternoon ears can handle, the dog can’t decide whether she wants out or in, and in the refrigerator lie the rest of the Thanksgiving leftovers that no one wants to eat.

On nearly auto-pilot I measure rice, rinse it and pour it into the rice cooker. An errant grain skips off the edge and bounces onto the cover of my tattered copy of The Joy of Cooking. The gilded letters catch the last bit of sunshine streaming through the windows and I stop.

I have to laugh.

The joy of cooking? Not yesterday’s beloved Turkey à la King, for which the book was consulted (Quick White Sauce, pg. 342), nor any of the Rombauers’ many other recipes is on the menu tonight.

Nope, it’s burritos. Or rather, Mexican, because I’ve got two gluten-free eaters, three vegetarians and a rather finicky omnivore to cook for tonight—meaning, he doesn’t like beans or cumin.

In my imaginary bestselling cookbook entitled, “What the heck am I supposed to feed these people?”, I tell you how to feed this family or your own with as many different variations as possible. Your vegapaleotariavoire meal plan that no one ever tires of. Except the cook.

Here’s where the laugh comes in: I actually like cooking. I enjoy making food for other people to eat, nourishing them.

I revel in the sensory experience of food so much so that I smash garlic with my hand, rather than the side of the knife, or the really nice garlic smasher my mom gave us. I love the spices, the textures, the pleasing patterns of nature showing up when I slice into a veggie. But somehow, the joy gets lost on a Wednesday night in December when it’s a meal I’ve made so many times before.

I saw that gilded joy and it was a piece of a cosmic joke, a reminder. I get to do this. I have abundance enough to do it with fresh and mostly organic food. While they may not always show their appreciation, the local vegapaleotariavoires are basically satisfied with my cooking. So, why not enjoy it?

I poured myself a long, tall drink (of water). I turned the music to something more 5 o’clockish. I handed the superhero some crayons and hid the bell. I realized the dog was thirsty, too. I remembered another beloved and simple recipe that fit into tonight’s theme. I stopped to breathe and take in the beauty in the chaos and dailyness. I breathed in and out. I chopped when I was chopping. I stirred when I was stirring.

And there it was: the contentment and joy that I thought I’d lost.

And, amazingly enough, this peace made it into the food and turned into gratitude from the rest of the family.

To remind myself of this fleeting moment, I took a few moments tonight to write down my thoughts about staying in The Joy:

• A rough plan is better than no plan: Monday Mexican, Tuesday StirFry, Wednesday Soup and Salad, etc….
• Drink Water! You probably forgot to do this all day long anyway, and drinking water well before meals is considered to be more beneficial according to Ayurveda.
• Reduce sensory input. While the dog and the kids are not going anywhere soon, the music doesn’t have to be so dang loud, even if that’s what you thought you wanted.
• Have a handful of nuts—Brain Food!
• Keep multi-tasking to a minimum, while this might seem like a good time to call someone, it’s not.
• Give yourself some grace. Simple is not boring. Breakfast for dinner is an option!
• Enlist help. They probably won’t help if you don’t ask, but they may if you do!
• Stay in the gratitude: we have enough food, we have enough water, we have each other

I’m going to have to post these rules in my office, and then perhaps crunch time will be less crunchy.




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Author: Sarah Doggett

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Grannies Kitchen/Flickr

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