For as long as I can remember I have loved people with food. So it is not ironic that I find myself immersed and fascinated with the science of Ayurveda. Obviously there was some karmic residue in and around food for me in this lifetime.
My father wanted a boy…I received a fishing knife for my 6th or 7th birthday and a fishing tackle box for another birthday. For my 12th birthday, I received a down sleeping bag and all I really wanted was platform shoes and a denim patchwork skirt. I wasn’t going to be a boy, as exciting as those outdoor toys might have been I wasn’t going for it…. So I started baking for my dad. My mom wasn’t much of a cook so I taught myself with cookbooks, advise from elderly neighbors and grandmothers. I have an early and vague memory of making my dad an original challah bread from scratch complete with braid and shiny egg wash! ...when I was just 11 or 12 years old. I baked all the time. It was my way of connecting with my Dad. And eventually others.
When someone who loves food prepares it, you can taste it… You can give the same ingredients to two different people, even the same recipe and the food can taste completely different. When you go to a chef owned restaurant and you have a chef that loves food, loves what he or she does, and cares about food, you will taste that love in the food.
Ayurvedic wisdom encourages us to prepare food with this love and in a calm and tranquil environment as well as eating it in a calm and tranquil environment. Doing so will help maximize the absorption of nutrients as well as nourish and satisfy. If you have ever been to a traditional ashram the kitchen staff will chant beautiful vedic mantras while preparing the food.
Many years ago when I first met Beryl Bender Birch she said she had been practicing yoga everyday for over 30 years. It is probably 40 or more by now…. But that stuck with me and she clarified at the time. She wasn’t talking about asana. She was talking about mindfulness and being present. She said even when she chopped carrots she was practicing yoga. She makes sure she is present and she makes sure she is mindful and if you have ever made a meal with her it is pure joy.
I love to make sandwiches and I make great ones. I like them to be visually pleasing as well as delicious and satisfying. I have been making sandwiches with this kind of intention for years. I have been cooking for people with this kind of intention for years. Way back when I was still married we were on a family vacation in California. We had rented a beach house and our routine everyday was to make a picnic and head to the beach for the day. My sandwiches were looked forward to on our beach adventures. One day I wanted to try a local yoga class so I asked one of our guests to make the sandwiches while I was in class. I showed her the ingredients as I walked out the door. Later when we were all at the beach my former husband looked over at me and said what’s wrong with these sandwiches, “they are just awful” and they were. It was right then and there I knew it was because the person who made just went through the motions. She didn’t really love making them. Not the way I love making them. Every since that day I have been more conscious of the energy, attitude and environment when preparing food. Even when shopping for food I find joy.
So I tell this short little trivial story to encourage you think about where your food is coming from? Who is preparing it? Where are they emotionally or spiritually? And consider what your state of mind is when you prepare meals and when you eat them. Sometimes we cannot control where our food comes from but we can control our attitudes. A very wise teacher once told me he would rather a family buy and eat canned food sitting together and enjoying it… than have one or more parents working around the clock to afford organic fresh food and then be too exhausted or not even present to have the joy of family meals together. Take a moment before you cook or eat to breath, to bless your food, sit in a quiet, peaceful place, eat with your loved ones and laugh, chew slowly and enjoy!