Putting Love in Food.
The most elegant prescription is always at the end of your fork.
“Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks.”
– Judith B. Jones
One of the biggest compliments that I ever received was from a Landmark Forum leader, whose meals I cooked over 23 years ago. I was helping with the logistics of pulling off the course and my part was to cook for the leader of the course; not an easy feat as there was no kitchen available so I had to reproduce all of the food in my own home. He was very detailed and had every requirement handwritten on a notepad all ready for me.
These course leaders were on stage for an average of 14 to 16 hour a day, so they really needed food that was energizing, healing AND delicious. At first glance, given the papers I was reading, I thought that the gentleman in question was a huge pain in the bum. However, as I began to shop for him what I noticed was an attention to detail that completely intrigued me.
There were so many things that he wouldn’t and couldn’t eat and I was used to being voluptuous and abundant in my kitchen, producing rich, gorgeous and not terribly healthy meals. It became quite an emotional challenge for me and I thought to myself "Ok…he’s going to love the food that I make for him” even though I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make dishes with approximately 5 ingredients taste any good!
I unpacked all of my grocery bags, took a deep breath and began to cook. I worked off of the menu I’d created for him, a vegetable soup with asparagus , curry and no cream, a simple artichoke steamed and served with an olive oil aioli and a beautiful piece of sole that was poached in a fragrant base of tomatoes, onions, olives , saffron and fresh herbs.
For dessert there was a red wine poached pear with a drizzle of vanilla infused cream , raspberries and a few dark chocolate curls. Needless to say I was pretty proud of the meal but I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a meal of whole foods and whole herbs and it was very clean food, much lighter than my normal cooking. It was very pretty and I was happy feeling proud when I wrapped it up to transport it back to the hotel where the course was being held.
I set the table with some beautiful stoneware, plated the food and left the room so that he and my husband could talk. He was a fairly stern sort of man so I wasn’t expecting much. I never saw his face when he took his first bites, but an hour later my husband walked out with a huge grin. “Wow” he said and proceeded to give me all of the details. I guess that he took the first spoonful of soup, smiled and told Jim, “I usually don’t expect much and that’s why I keep my requirements so simple. I used to live in a Buddhist monastery in Colorado and for years I worked in the kitchen where they taught us every day to put love into the food we served. I have not tasted love in my food since I left there so many years ago.”
Then he said “Your wife knows how to put love in food.”
That compliment changed forever the way that I look at cooking.
From that point on he smiled at me whenever he saw me and didn’t leave a scrap of anything. I was thrilled and I made it a life lesson from that moment on to discover what he meant. I think that love is an essential ingredient in cooking and once we’ve been made aware of it, we can taste when it’s missing. I think that we all know when it’s not present in our food, much in the same way that our bodies know the difference between whole herbs or herbal isolates because there’s definitely an energy missing in the isolates that is in my opinion the healing heart and soul of the plant. I’ve never been sure how I did it that day, but to truly have him experience the love and care that I’d put into preparing it for him was my intention and I was thrilled and intrigued by the result. This experience led to my becoming an IIN Board Certified Health Coach in 2012 and that was when I learned even more about what I wanted to put into my body and why.
That course leader literally changed the direction of my cooking, my coaching and my life that day.
I believe that the addition of love to our cooking IS the alchemical ingredient that blends the process of cooking with the process of healing . Without the energy love provides, our food becomes inert, simply something that we’re putting into our mouths to survive and we’re meant to thrive not survive! We can’t live without eating (or love for that matter!) so before I cook anything, I always try to create a simple and lovely intention for the meal. I notice that when I don’t, that even if the food is good, that there’s just something that’s missing.
Sometimes it’s as easy as wanting to provide a nurturing meal for my family or to make a celebratory meal for a dear friend. Sometimes it’s as necessary as preparing something special for someone who’s ailing or grieving. I try to tune in to what’s needed and cook the appropriate dishes. I always want my guests to feel loved and special , and planning and preparing the meal is where that starts.
The foods and herbs that we eat have different energies and really can provoke different emotions and an entire range of physical feelings. For example combinations of chicken or lamb with chocolate and chiles will always make you feel warm, sociable and happy, but if you wanted to simply relax and spend the evening curled up with a good book you’d add lavender or lemon balm, honey and lemon instead.
Combinations of beef, pork and fruit laced with cinnamon, nutmeg and Chinese 5 spice served with root vegetables is a meal that you’d eat when you needed to have a seriously focused conversation with a beginning and end. The traditions and soft creamy flavors of comfort foods like mac and cheese are obvious to us all, but there is a reason that lobsters, crab and oysters are the lighter and primal finger foods that we serve when we are in the mood for an evening of love.
Texture, aroma, sight and taste are only 4 of the senses that I use to create a balanced meal. There is a fifth emotional sense and I’ve learned that it can be provoked through the use of the energy found in all of our foods as we prepare them.
Put your hands into your food when you mix it, taste it and enjoy the whole process of preparing it. Listen to some wonderful music while you’re cooking and just enjoy the process of chopping and preparing the ingredients; stir everything thoroughly with the magical intentions of love.
Then relax. Set the table with your best china even if it's just for you and your husband or if you’re just by yourself ...especially if you’re by yourself. Sip a glass of wine while you’re cooking or a quiet cup of herbal tea. Slow down, breathe in and out and enjoy the process of preparing a meal filled that’s filled with the most life enhancing nutrient of all, the vitamin of love.
What foods make you feel the most loved and why? What foods bring you comfort? What foods make you feel the strongest? I’d love to know! Please leave me a comment!
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