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Mindfulness in the Kitchen – an Everyday Challenge

Welcome to the March Mindful Mama Carnival: Mindful Mama Challenge

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have challenges they’ve set for themselves toward becoming more mindful. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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A cook sautees onions and peppers.

A cook sautees onions and peppers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past few months as I’ve had this carnival in mind, I’ve been challenging myself to become more mindful in everyday, ‘monotonous’ tasks – things like cleaning, putting the little one to bed – even laundry – but most of all, in my cooking.

Cooking is something I’ve always enjoyed but over the past year as I’ve become both more busy than I’ve ever been and more aware of the importance of consuming real, healthy food, the act of cooking itself has become something of an obsession for me – and not always in a good way.

I have begun to develop very high ideals that frequently crash with the reality of a background of fake food and rushed dinners – all too often it just leaves me feeling disappointed and unhappy with myself when I fail.

And yet the joy of providing a truly healthy, nutrient and colour filled meal for my family is just…indescribable. It leaves me feeling so fulfilled and at peace…sometimes for days when I get on a good roll – sometimes just until the next meal.

It may seem strange to talk so of food, but in all my journey of becoming more healthful, mindful and respectful of the environment around me and the resources I consume, food has been and continues to be absolutely the biggest challenge.

This awareness of what I am doing when I provide a meal for my family began when Bean was tiny. When I made her bottles, some pride and joy just welled up in me. I would think on some level, “I am caring in one of the most basic and important ways for the dearest person to me on this earth by providing her good, safe and clean food to eat.” (I’m sure breastfeeding moms have felt similarly, if not more so)

I began, slowly but surely, to learn more and more, and to develop what I like to think of as my own personal food philosophy. I won’t go into all that here, but to repeat that it’s been at times an extremely frustrating journey. My personal mindfulness challenge in the everyday act of cooking has taken me several long steps along the path toward the goal I have in mind.

In The Organic Family Cookbook, Anni Daulter shares:

I learned how to cook at a Zen Buddhist community called Tassajara, in Carmel Valley, CA. They taught me the art of conscious community cooking, where each of us was responsible for one ingredient, and we had to put our full love and attention to it, whether it was chopping tomatoes, picking over lettuce leaves, baking, or cooking rice. That’s because it’s all sacred, every job. Bringing our presence and full awareness to our cooking and allowing our children to have special jobs in the kitchen ends up creating a community meal that is filled with love and tastes great. I have found that this lesson also translates to other aspects of our lives. The more we practice living in the moment, the more we appreciate each one.

Though it’s a bit of a different twist, the book Like Water for Chocolate puts me in a similar mindset.

What both of these express in better words than I could is the importance of consciousness and mindfulness in the kitchen. There are 4 areas in particular in which I’ve been challenging myself to this ideal:

  • Purchasing. I’ve become much more conscious of the things I will buy – asking myself what effect my purchases will end up having, for good or ill, not only on my own body but on the world surrounding me. I’ve come to see and understand the power of my dollar and what it means to people, plants, animals and ecosystems. Buying organic, boycotting Nestle, looking for local, rejecting waste in extra packaging and plastic. I am FAR from perfect in all of these areas, but the more I learn the more I do challenge myself to ask those questions and consider the consequences.
  • Preparation. This is the fun one for me. As much as I do enjoy cooking, it can totally suck at times to contemplate the idea of coming home (super hungry) after a long day at work and turning on the stove. What helps me the most is to really and truly pour love into the process. I admire the ingredients and consider what went into their making. I make what are (to me) amazing combinations that I am proud to serve up to my husband and daughter (and that doesn’t necessarily mean elaborate!). I chop and grind and saute and bake with attention and care and thought into how I can make the food taste its absolute best. Again, there’s no perfection here – but the more I think of cooking this way, the easier it becomes.
  • Consumption. This is an area that, to my mind, we are are not doing our best in. My dream is of course the family table, with everyone sitting down together over conversation and great food. The reality is more like me on the couch feeding the little one from my plate (as she increasingly demands more, faster) with the husband at his computer desk looking at basketball stats. Oh – and our beautiful kitchen table? Absolutely covered with crap! We couldn’t eat there if we wanted to… At the moment, I try to do my best to simply appreciate the food, and remain in discussion over how we actually eat it. I do think we’ll get there eventually.
  • Clean Up. This, of course, is the least fun aspect for me. But as we’ve transitioned to things like no paper plates (thus plates need to be washed often), no paper towels (have to make sure the rag bag is stocked!), cast iron skillets (have to be washed by hand and are used for almost every meal it seems), I find it’s definitely something I have to be mindful of! And there is pride in it as well – we’ve come a long way. In the end, I can remind myself how very valuable and worth it is to be able to practice these things.

There are other areas I think on - involving my family more in the entire process, finding creative recipes and new food experiences, growing my own food, etc., etc. Really, it’s quite a fertile ground for moving into deeper appreciation, consciousness and love in everyday living.

Ultimately, it’s been a blessing of a challenge – and something I will continue to strive for – even on the all too frequent days we head through the drive through or call for delivery.

I’m thankful I have the opportunity to learn and grow so much in spite of it all.

***

Mindful Mama Carnival -- Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ Visit The Mindful Mama Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Carnival!

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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:



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17 Responses to “Mindfulness in the Kitchen – an Everyday Challenge”

  • Oh wow – I really love the spin on bringing kids into the kitchen by talking about lovingly preparing the food. I think I will try that with Kieran – and maybe it can help me be more mindful in the kitchen as well!!

  • LOVE that quote from Anni Daulter. Unfortunately the reality of preparing food as a mama is often the opposite of mindfulness. I tend to do it in the early afternoon when my energy and focus are higher and I’m not being nagged by hungry, tired children.

    Love the way you have broken it down into 4 stages – makes it all seem more… manageable!
    Lucy@Dreaming Aloud recently posted..Mindful mama moon time

  • This is an area of struggle for me, I must confess. I get really, really TIRED of thinking about FOOD! I wish it would just make itself so I can get on with other things. I am working at coming to peace with my obsession with healthy food and making everything homemade: it is infringing on the rest of my life! LOL!

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflections on this topic.
    Patti @ Canadian Unschooler recently posted..Watch Your Words

  • Ahhhhhh yes! I relate completely. Being a real foodie with some major dietary limitations can make cooking less of a joy and more of a dreaded chore. I LOOOOVE food. I LOOOOVE creating in the kitchen. I LOOOOOOVE eating. But cooking stresses me out.

    I do not want my daughter to grow up seeing this. I want her to love cooking. I want her to do it with love. I grew up seeing this. My father treats cooking like Michaelangelo treated the Sistine Chapel. Seriously. It is actually beautiful to watch my father cook. I long for this and as I get more and more entrenched in the real foods lifestyle, the art of cooking will come.

    Wonderful, wonderful post.
    Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama recently posted..The Importance of a Moment

  • Melissa says:

    As much as I value mindfulness, and as much as I love to prepare wholesome meals for my family, I have never thought much about how I can bring mindfulness as a practice and my preparation of our meals together. I put thought into what we buy, of course, but when it comes to cooking, I’m often just trying to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. How much more enjoyable would it be if I would just chill out and *enjoy*? Thanks for inspiring me to think more about this!
    Melissa recently posted..Culinary Wanderings #3

  • Amy says:

    Kelly, I can relate! In our journey with food it quickly turned into more of an obsession, something to control, which feels *so* yucky. The focus on loving every step can really help us slow down and appreciate what we have, how it nourishes our bodies, loving all of the choices we make, and celebrating food for what it is in the human experience. Thank you for sharing… much love to you and yours.
    Amy recently posted..Waking up with Meditation

  • Shana says:

    I really like that Anni Daulter quote. I love the idea of children having a special job and living in the moment. Some of my favorite times with my 3 year old are when we are cooking together in the kitchen. Our mainstream society seems to have such a disfunctional relationship with food, the idea of being mindful in teh kitchen and preparing food with love as a sacred act is a beautiful idea.
    Shana recently posted..Speaking to the Need

  • teresa says:

    I really appreciate your post. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately too. You added some things for me to incorporate as well and I look forward to getting started.
    Especially now as I’m taking us off of gluten and way off sugar… Finally really letting go of most of the processed things.
    Preparation is a big one for me and I love your way of talking about it.
    Dishes… well, I can get pretty zen about them, but only if I’m not too tired. Then I’m just a snarly, growly grumpus.
    I’ll keep aiming though.
    teresa recently posted..Quieting my Infernal Inner Ramblings

  • This is what I strive to do day in and day out. I used to find the daily chores to be absolute drudgery. Then, I went on a retreat and an ashram. Every day, we were expected to do “karma yoga” which are chores. Again, I hated the cooking and cleaning. I resented the mess other people made. I felt under appreciated and thought some of the people were inconsiderate about cleaning up after themselves a bit. Most of all, I hated getting dirty and sweaty when the showers were low-pressure with 5 minute timers.

    But, I listened to those wise Yogis running the ashram when we met for daily mindfulness practices. They never spoke about anything related directly to the work at the ashram, but more about contentment and cultivating peacefulness. And the lessons seeped in to my resistant mind. I could choose to be miserable. I could even choose to opt out of karma yoga, if I wished. But, I began to see it as service that was an act of compassion to myself and the people around me. I didn’t need to be appreciated or acknowledged for it (although, that’s nice, of course) but I needed to accept my resistance and love myself anyway. Every swipe of the brush, every scrub of the cloth became a meditation in whether I could love myself ANYWAY.

    So this is how I view my role in the neverending laundrydishespickingupwipingbuttsandnoses. It’s not suffering in silence. I ask for acknowledgement when I need it. I skip doing the tasks entirely, if I can’t get to the space of mindfulness. But, it is act of love for myself and for my family.

    And sometimes, when things are really hard; patience has left the building; I’ve got nothing left to give, scrubbing a toilet is a finite piece of control, of proof that I can still DO.

    And I have, very obviously, avoided talk about food here. It’s a big, sticky spot for me right now with the morning sickness and weird cravings. I’m not ok with the convenience foods we’ve been relying on. But, I’ll find the self-compassion for that at some point (and I’ll revisit your post about then, too ;)

    As always, I am grateful for our bloggy friendship. You saved my behind this carnival. I am not sure how to express my gratitude, except to send you a hug that I’ll hold for an inappropriate long time. And personally, thank you for being an example of a mindful mama for me.
    Zoie @ TouchstoneZ recently posted..Mindful Meditations

  • CJ says:

    I’m in much the same boat trying to bring mindfulness and love to food preparation. It used to be, before kids, that my husband and I would pour a couple of beers and help each other cook our evening meal. It was a great way to reconnect and really enhanced our experience of our meal.

    As our family has grown, more and more meal prep involves me working around dirty dishes and bulk foods that won’t yet fit into our canisters, trying not to kill myself on the trucks and stuffed animals and wooden puzzle pieces my son has brought into the kitchen, being told (by my daughter) obscure facts about the reproductive cycle of the pine martin, and listening to Frog and Toad or Curious George audiobooks so often I could recite them by heart. All of this with the time pressure of getting dinner done after my husband gets home from work but before the kids implode from hunger and exhaustion. Sucks the joy out of the process, for sure.

    Bringing mindfulness and love to the process of nourishing our loved ones as you describe here can, I think, infuse a little more joy and—if we’re lucky—calm.
    CJ recently posted..Toddler Nightmare

  • Love the idea of bringing kids into the kitchen and making them love to prepare and cook food. I usually try with vatsal – my son to help me in the kitchen with the little stuff which he can do. He usually loves to do it. :)
    Ariana Lemarr recently posted..Achat lunette de tir

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