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Soulful Cooking

"A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe",

Thomas Keller

Cooking has been one of the greatest passions in my life and teachers in developing my personality. It can be instantly rewarding — a grand celebration of flavor. Or it can turn quickly into a life lesson, keeping you humble with lots of opportunities to learn about loss, imperfection, acceptance, perseverance, grief, willingness and ultimately a simple forgiveness that leaves you with a choice to either throw in the dishtowel or try, try again.

Cooking is my space to unleash my creativity; practice mindfulness and a way to send love back to the universe through food. I’m cooking for myself and my guests with love; It’s one of my love languages.

Food is the most fundamental of needs for our survival and almost every major event in our lives revolves around it. It plays a vital role in the development of social interactions and social relationships. I find food to be sacred and the process of making food to be awakening and insightful. Although I am not professionally trained, cooking has become a joyful passion.

The process of making food has taught me to be mindful, embrace creativity, and push for mastery.

I believe that we are the cooks of our kitchen and take responsibility for our successes and our failures. My recipe comes from using my favorite ingredients, my family traditions, and what I have learned from my own experiences — good and bad — in the kitchen. In fact, with an open mind, I can pick up things here and there that I would like to add to my own. Sometimes I like improvising and experimenting depending on the ingredients I have available.

Trying to be perfect is a setup for failure. Because life is not perfect. We are not perfect. We can learn from our mistakes. There is simply no room for anything harsh in my life these days, and I am much more kind to myself than I used to be. I used to be very strict and demanding of myself with cooking but over time I learned to be kind and compassionate with myself; this released any pressure to make the perfect dish; what matters is how much love, devotion, and positive energy we put in the process. Ever since I can remember living alone, I have always invited friends and family to my home for Sunday lunch, dinners, or big birthday parties. I was always cooking a lot for my guests because I wanted to express my love and please them but with a lot of stress – making sure that everything was ready on time, well cooked and tasty, etc.

In 2020 because of COVID, I started cooking more on a daily basis mainly for myself and over time I started approaching cooking slightly differently, with more mindfulness, love, passion, and devotion trying to let my creativity and imagination free – unleash them. Since then, I have enjoyed cooking more and more – it’s my happy, funny, creative, and mindful time with myself.

Resilience, adaptability and curiosity are muscles that I am building and strengthening through cooking. I focus on what is working and what I do have in the here and now. Once, I thought I had one whole lemon for hummus, but when it was time to add it, I realized I had only half. I had all the ingredients, but I didn’t have enough lemon. Instead of getting tripped up by what’s not there, I decided to improvise — be open to the “whatever” and move forward with what I do have and I added orange juice and orange zest. The outcome? I even created something with a different flavor that’s better than the original. My friend loved my hummus. And there is no recipe out there with orange juice. This is what gets the creative process going. I’d bet almost every chef discovered at least one of their favorite recipes simply because they were out of some ingredients and were forced to get creative.

This taught me that sometimes we don’t need to follow someone else’s recipe word by word or someone else’s rules, practices, or advice but instead trust our own intuition and creative side. Since then I have experimented with ingredients and have created recipes that have been loved and pleasantly tasted by my guests.

Just like making music or poetry, cooking requires understanding interconnectedness and harmonies.

In addition to the above, cooking is a great space to develop skills like:

  • Patience – the good thing can't be hurried.

  • Practice – everything is made better the more times you have done it in the past and this brings mastery.

  • Planning & Organization & Coordination:  this has been proven useful mainly when I have a lot of guests at home and the preparation requires planning, and good organisational skills but also coordination – what has to be cooked first, second, ingredients and time needed for each, etc. It's like a real project in that you have to take into consideration all parameters and variables.

  • Confidence – over time I trust my intuition and creativity more.

  • Mindfulness - I have found cooking as a means towards my journey of mindfulness. It’s been said that the only two jobs of a Zen monk that are more important than sitting zazen (meditation) are cooking and cleaning. Cooking is a great way to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It simply means living in the moment and awakening to experience. And it takes practice to be mindful. I have found that when I ritualistically cook regularly it enhances my ability to be more in the present moment effortlessly.

  • Creativity - I don’t ever follow a recipe for my cooking. I like to experiment, mix and match, and “design” my meals. I make my decisions based on availability, my eating companions, and the hour of the day.

Has the way you approach cooking changed after reading my article?

I invite you to start cooking with your soul. The essence of cooking soulfully is slowing down and taking the time to prepare a healthy meal with love and curiosity.

Happy Soulful Cooking!


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