Friday, September 4, 2009

Cooking With Love

Can cooking be a spiritual experience? A friend in the restaurant business sent me an article from the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper titled, “Restaurants Nurture Stomachs and Souls.” The author of the article reviewed several restaurants in the Bay Area that incorporate spirituality into preparing and serving food. One quote really caught my eye:

"With every slice of ‘neatloaf’ [a vegetarian meatloaf] he serves at Ananda Fuara in San Francisco, Viddyut Balmer believes he is bringing love, peace and joy into the world. ‘Our very purpose is to offer joy in a simple way.’ "

The article goes on to describe other restaurants that attempt to feed the body and soul. The common thread running through these restaurants was that those preparing and serving the food understood what they were doing as a spiritual practice. Words like “mindfulness” and “love” were mentioned several times.

Can cooking food be a soul-nourishing experience? My answer is a resounding yes! The key to it being a spiritual experience is how we understand what we are doing. Since I have been the weekday cook in our family for many years, I have much personal experience to share.

For many years I viewed cooking as a necessary evil. I would get home around five and have about 30 minutes to relax (or play with our sons) before I needed to start preparing our evening meal. Because our sons needed to get to their homework immediately after dinner, we tried to eat right at 6:30 p.m. I cooked simple dishes: a main course, a vegetable and a salad. We had 8 basic meals we would rotate over a 2 week cycle with Fridays being “order out” night.

Perhaps because I felt rushed to meet the 6:30 deadline, or because I was tired from work, I found cooking to be drudgery and didn’t enjoy it. Then I happened to read “The Practice of God’s Presence” by Brother Lawrence, a 16th century monk. In his book he described how baking bread with love transforms it into a spiritual experience.

So I tried cooking with love. I thought about those I was cooking for and how much I loved them. This led to putting more effort into cooking. I started adding some variety into our meals (this was welcomed by everyone, including me). I solicited meal ideas from the family. I began to see cooking as an act of love.

I’m not putting myself on a pedestal because I don’t always cook with love. But, when I do, it changes the experience into something deeper and more satisfying.

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