How About MINDFUL Cooking?

We've all heard of mindful eating, but could mindful cooking be the next step in our love affair with food?

Many dieticians and food researchers say mindful cooking is simply another way to take better care of ourselves. In essence, this cooking approach is simply preparing a meal with awareness and can be a very different, satisfying experience.

Seems like this mindful cooking thing is worth a try, all in the name of eating healthy, delicious food. So, how do we do it?

The overall premise is to be mindful of each step in the cooking process. And this starts at the meal planning stage. In other words, be consciously aware about what you're going to eat today, and throughout the week. No more default cooking. (Chef Christine Luken has written a great book on the subject.) From choosing your meal, shopping for the ingredients and getting back into your kitchen, each step is an opportunity to be mindful. (While I know Cook’n cooks are traditionally very good at this, it bears mentioning.)

The next step is to set your intentions. It's about asking yourself why you are preparing the food you're preparing, and then noticing your state of mind as you're about to prepare the food. Are you seeing food preparation as a chore or as an opportunity to be creative? How hungry are you? And how aware are you of the sensations of hunger in your body?

From there you move to appreciation of the food. Part of the mindful cooking experience is a sense of gratitude for the wonderful food we have access to. Becoming aware of the ingredients that you are choosing to put in your body and looking at them with a beginner's mind (seeing what new things you can notice about them), are good ways to take the drudgery and “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” out of daily meal preparation.

Maybe you might wonder where they came from and how far they had to travel to finally be in your fridge or pantry, or you might consider how many people were involved in growing the food, carrying it and selling it. Then, as you peel, chop and prepare the food, can you appreciate the colors, the aromas, the sensations on your fingers, the sounds, the changing textures? Can you focus on what you are doing moment by moment as if it was the only thing you ever had to do?

As Zen teachers say: 'When you cut the carrot, cut the carrot' – can you pay attention to your whole experience as it is happening? This is possible when you focus on just one thing. It’ll be easier to do that if you switch some things off—turn off anything that’s pulling you out of the experience—you want to be present with what you're doing.

And the ultimate way to get into mindfulness (whether it's while cooking or in meditation) is to consider each of your five senses as you do the activity. Tune into them. Notice, for instance, how it feels in your hands when you're rinsing the grapes, or how it sounds when the water is coming to the boil, or how it smells when the onions hit the frying pan? It’s a fact that dialing in to sensory experiences brings you right into the moment.

While it's not realistic to think you can be mindful while cooking every single time (after all, life happens in between turning saucepans on), mindfulness is an effective way to rethink your approach to food. And the folks who know say it’s a direct route to experiencing more joy and satisfaction in the process—filling more than just stomachs!


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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