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Cooking with love

Date: 2007-12-26

IT IS A VERY WESTERN approach to think that what happens in your brain stays
in your brain. In Eastern cultures (Eastern Indian, Tibetan Ayurveda and
Chinese medicine), they know better. They take into consideration that what
we give attention to in our thoughts and in our bodies manifests itself in
either healthy or unhealthy ways.

The energy of our inner dialogue can infuse things around it, including
organ systems, the energy in personal relationships and our cooking.

Cooking? I've discussed in the past how this can affect our digestion based
on what we are thinking about the food as we eat it. But what about what the
chef was thinking when he prepared the food? In Ayurvedic cooking, there is
a huge importance placed on the prayers, positive thoughts and the
concentration that goes into the preparing of food.

The sign that hangs over the Big Life Whole Foods shop at the market bears a
quote from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet: "For if you bake bread with
indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger."
Gibran was neither chef nor health professional. He was an artist, poet and
writer with a lot of common sense.

This motto was ingrained (no pun intended) in me the first day I learned to
make bread at Big Life. My back was tired from washing dishes, and I was
admittedly a touch grouchy. As I am someone who wears my heart and thoughts
on my sleeve, my co-worker noticed my mood and told me I wasn't allowed to
handle the bread unless I was thinking positive thoughts. Thanks to his
gentle encouragement, my attitude changed on a dime, for I did not want to
contribute to any bitterness in anyone's bread.

Several years earlier, when I was a regular patron of Big Life rather than a
co-worker, I experienced the power of this motto at work. You see, we sell
magic soup. "What makes it magic?" is a common question that I now answer
with the story of my first taste of the soup.

As part of my routine at the market, I stopped off at my favourite shop for
my morning cinnamon bun and my nine-inch pizza with the works. I was
battling a cold at the time, and John, the shop owner, knew immediately that
I was not myself.

Without a second thought, he grabbed a container of soup and gave it to me
with the instructions to eat it in a calm environment and with the promise
that it would make me feel better. It did. But being a firm believer in the
healing powers of food, I was not surprised.

All nutritional value aside though, the soup was truly magical in that it
came from a place of love and generosity. It started with the care that the
cook took in choosing the ingredients, then in the mixing of them.
Furthermore, the kindness with which the food was given to me increased the
potency of its healing properties.

The energy of our thoughts flows into our food and can either decrease or
increase its value. The chef could be top-notch, but if he runs his kitchen
like Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, you are bound to get a little indigestion, or

Many natural health food companies add "love" to their list of ingredients.
This isn't to be hokey; it's because they recognize the importance of having
pure intentions and positive thoughts when preparing food.

Love is another word for energy, and food is a source of energy for the
body, so doesn't it makes sense to put the two together? You can help infuse
your food with more love, beginning with the purchase or selection of the

When you buy your food with an attitude of gratitude, that same energy
follows you home like a stray cat. Make a habit of personally thanking the
folks that help you in your purchase and say a private thanks to the earth
and farmers who helped bring the food to you.

Once home, leave any stresses of the day behind when you step in to the
kitchen. Better yet, leave them behind all together. In massage therapy,
before we lay our hands on a client, we are taught to ground ourselves, so
that we transmit only healthy positive thoughts (and so that we don't get
sucked in to their thoughts). The same should be done when cooking. Take the
time to clear the mind and body before starting to cook, with some light
exercise or with deep breathing, for example.

Further create a positive environment by carefully choosing your background
noise. Perhaps you like to listen to classical music, or maybe a little bit
of folk or reggae lifts your spirits and gets you pumped for cooking. Or
perhaps you prefer a book on tape or a quiet space. There are no rules,
provided it makes you happy and in tune (OK, pun intended this time) with
your cooking.

Make sure that you feel safe and comfortable in your cooking space. Being
afraid, even on an unconscious level, distracts from the positive
intentions. And finally, actively think positive and healing thoughts
anytime you wash, cut, stir or come in contact with your food. Also, limit
the amount of mucking around with the food since you can't control all of
your thoughts all of the time.

You don't have to fully immerse yourself in Eastern cultures to appreciate
their notions of healthy living, and in this case, healthy cooking. This
time of year, when so many of our celebrations revolve around food, it's
extra important to take special care in our choices, and to indulge with
gratitude and happiness. Or maybe I'm just looking for a good reason to
allow myself my mom's Christmas baking!

Stay healthy, stay happy!


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