Cooking as a Spiritual Experience

November 24, 2009

Back in April, my blog friends Kim and Jason at Escape Adulthood wrote a post called The Importance of Family Dinner. I first commented about my experience there and meant to write a post in greater detail. Here’s that post…

As a kid and young adult I really didn’t cook much…yeah I could make pancakes, tuna casserole, frozen chicken patties (my college specialty), sandwiches and burgers among other things.  Having been raised by a busy single mom, I grew up eating fast food and more Hamburger Helper than I care to remember (though I must admit she cooked some great stuff on weekends when she had more time).

For most of my life, I took eating and making meals for granted.  It was something that I needed to do because I was hungry and I didn’t think much of it.

But that changed five years ago when I was laid off for the first time.  Angry, sad, confused and filled with anxiety I needed some stability in my life.  I needed to get out of my head and create something with my hands.  I needed, not just to fill my stomach but also to fill my soul.

I decided I was going to cook good meals for myself as often as possible, even though it was a table for one on most days.

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I approached each meal like an empty canvas.  Some days I had a meal planned in advance, but many days I went to a local fruit stand which had a great selection of meats and fresh fruits and vegetables.  The place had low prices, which allowed me to spend much less than I would eating out.  I often came up with meal ideas on the spot with a spirit of serendipity.

Meal preparation was approached with a spirit of mindfulness.  My knife skills were sub-par, but each cut was pure bliss.  I enjoyed every moment of preparing my meal, which helped me to forget about my “life” situation.  Adding to the experience, I enjoyed looking out my kitchen window which faced west and overlooked the back yard and alley.  I was energized by the bright sunlight and the summer breeze coming through the window as I cooked.

I prepared my food with a spirit of creativity.  If I was serving green beans with my main course, I would think of every possible way to make the green beans taste extraordinary.  My favorite: steam the green beans and sprinkle Parmesan cheese in addition to a little butter.

Some of my favorite meals included chicken fajitas, beef tacos, chicken Marsala, crepes, chicken tortilla soup, chicken gumbo soup, gourmet spaghetti and meatballs, and cashew chicken in a wok.  I usually had one beer with my meal and on special occasions, I made mojitos.

As I sat down to eat on my dining room table, I said a silent prayer with deep gratitude for the food in front of me and the joyful experience of making food.  I was thankful for everything and everybody in my life.  Every meal was a Thanksgiving meal, a celebration, a spiritual experience.

As we get ready to sit down with our family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday, I invite you to approach your everyday meals with that same spirit of gratitude.  I have discovered that cooking (and eating) can be an artistic and therapeutic experience.

How about you…have you had any fun or interesting experiences cooking a meal? What is your favorite dish to prepare (and eat)?

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