Food. It nourishes us. It sustains our bodies and provides the fuel for us to experience life. For some, it is an adventure. An exploration of flavor and culture through taste and smell. For me, it is a therapist. Well, the food itself isn’t so much the therapist, though I have eaten a pint of heartbreak ice cream more than once in my journeys through young and fickle love. The therapy is actually in the preparation of food.
I cook. It’s very much a part of my identity these days. Sometimes, I feel almost as though I live in my kitchen, and I’m okay with that. I love the way that ingredients feel in my hands. I love the connections that they bring, the way that preparing food means that I am part of a larger process. From agricultural beginnings, to my hands, to the mouths of my family. I am the middle man. I can rinse a potato and imagine it nestled in the ground. I think about the mound that it was grown in, soil soft and damp, warmed by the sun. I feel all its bumps and knots and think about the way that it formed. Almost like the creation of a baby, I think about the specific set of circumstances that must be met in order for this one potato to grow. It grounds my anxious mind.
My family chooses to eat almost exclusively organic, local produce. This decision means that we also eat meals that are connected to the seasons. Living in the Midwest, you will not find us eating watermelon in December. Our seasonal menu connects us to the rhythms of our planet. We feel the ebb and flow of seasons in more than just our wardrobe and choice of recreational activities, we experience these shifts in the very food that we eat.
I believe that all of this means that we appreciate our food differently. I am so grateful for the way that food connects me to the earth, to the changing of the seasons, to the processes by which we grow and harvest. I am grateful for the way it connects me to the nourishment of my family, since nourishing their bodies is another way for me to show my love for them. I am so grateful when the berries come into season. Yum.
Finally, I am grateful for the meditation that I find in all of this. When I am quiet in the kitchen, feeling the ingredients in my hands, thinking about how they came to be here and working through the steps to combine them into something delicious and healthful, I am mindful. It is culinary mindfulness, and it is wonderful.