One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. ~ Virginia Woolf Click To Tweet
Cooking mindfully is an opportunity to turn off your brain and tune into your primitive senses. Mindfulness in the kitchen means staying engaged with the process instead of rushing through. It means being open, non-judgmental, and curious. Like all forms of mindfulness meditation, mindfully preparing food can lower your stress and help you learn more about your authentic self.
It would be great to dedicate 2 hours an evening to prepare the perfect dish. Unfortunately, this is not a good fit for everyone’s lifestyle. Even the busiest and most on-the-go can use some of these practices to bring some mindfulness into their hectic days.
Whether you have time or not, here are some tips to incorporate into your everyday cooking. Try adding them in one at a time and working your way towards a more mindful kitchen where you will enjoy cooking.
1) Mindful Shopping
The mindful art of cooking starts with shopping. Shopping mindfully encompasses so many different aspects. Eating local is the ultimate way to be mindful of where your food came from. It allows you to feel more authentic gratitude for your food. You can also show gratitude by learning how to store your produce properly to cut down on food waste.
The best way to shop mindfully is to go to a farmers market and see first hand what produce is in season. It is very different from the sterile environment of big box superstores! Food tastes better when it’s fresh and full of life.
For me, the most important aspect when choosing ingredients is their visual appeal. I love purple carrots, speckled radishes, and black rice. Colours change with the seasons when you eat local and it’s wonderful to watch the change. Notice what colours you are drawn to. Notice if you want to find comfort in familiar ingredients or if you find yourself drawn to an unruly bulbous kohlrabi. Curiosity is a big part of mindfulness! It helps us to return to the simple pleasures and possibilities in life.
2) Cleanliness is next to Mindfulness
Starting with a clear plan and a clean kitchen is good for mindful cooking. If I have a clean workspace it’s easy to come in and start cooking. There are fewer distractions, lots of room to organize ingredients, and less mess to clean up afterwards. Cleaning while cooking can keep you relaxed and happy.
If you’re using a recipe or freestyling, you need to have plan in mind for what you’re doing in the kitchen. If not, you could walk in there and get overwhelmed, furiously sautéing and chopping and not being present in the kitchen. Following a plan will make it easier to be mindful whether it’s vaguely formulated in your head or diligently written down in detail. Cooking requires a lot of multitasking, so having a plan and breaking it down into manageable tasks to do one by one is better, although it might take a little longer.
Organizing your workspace is also important. Keep everything off the counter that doesn’t have to be there and bring out the dishes you will need. I often choose to prepare meals that don’t require a lot of equipment so that I cut down on the amount of dishes I have to wash. A tidy kitchen is more conducive to mindful cooking.
Get your ingredients out of the cupboards and the fridge and arrange them nicely. Measure out portions of spices and seasonings instead of having the entire box of kosher salt on the counter. Try not to rush around your kitchen grabbing everything you need before you start. Take your time.
Remember to clean as you go. It can be discouraging to put effort into a meal and still have to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen afterwards. You run the risk of overwhelming yourself. If you spill, wipe it up carefully. If you keep your workspace as visually appealing as possible it makes it more relaxing and easier to focus on the task at hand.
3) Food Energy
The food we make is imbued with our energy. Any stress or thoughtlessness you’re carrying because your mind is preoccupied instead of in the present moment will reflect in the quality of your food. There’s a reason why home cooking is so delicious! I try to look at meal preparation as a meditative act that can help me to destress and relax. There are lots of ways to set yourself up to have a fulfilling cooking experience.
Do everything you can in advance to make your meal preparation as smooth as possible. Make a drink and enjoy it while perusing a recipe or organize a shelf in the kitchen. Don’t treat the kitchen like a prison cell where you want to spend the least time possible. Confront any anxiety that you have when cooking and managing tasks in the kitchen.
If I find myself feeling unsure or anxious or upset about how the meal is going, I will take a moment to breathe and then focus on another task if I can. It helps to listen to a storytelling podcast or ambient sounds while cooking. Keep the mood light, and bring fun into the kitchen. Be open minded and open hearted and this positive energy will bring life, flavour, and good vibes to your meals.
4) Grounding Focus
The first thing I do in the mornings is make a cup of tea. I focus on that one task with laser precision, noticing the quality of the water that day, the scent of the tea, the sounds of the kettle. This takes all of five minutes to accomplish and it’s an extremely grounding practice that sets me up to have a successful day.
Treat your meal preparations this way. Make the process as smooth as possible. Make time in your schedule for preparing food and enough time to make the practice enjoyable and stress free. In the mornings, I don’t check my email and tidy the kitchen and brush my teeth while making my tea. Focusing on one task at a time can be counterintuitive and maybe even frustrating at first but it’s these slow and mindful steps that create peace inside of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of cooking. Don’t let it carry you away.
A minimalist approach to the kitchen helps me focus on my food and be more appreciative of the ingredients that went into cooking. I find that using simple recipes with few ingredients is helpful. This is particularly great if you’re short on time or in a rush. Keep your food simple and beautiful. Let the ingredients shine. A minimalist shopping list and kitchen keep the last minute scrambling down to a minimum and will save you time throughout the week.
Interested in learning about eating mindfully?