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17 July 2006

The Zen of Food

By Guest Author Katie Pizzuto

There are people I know who could care less if they ate the same thing for dinner most nights of the is sustenance to them, not pleasure. And I also know people that can’t stand having to come home each night and prepare dinner for their family after a hard day’s is a chore to them, not a reprieve. I fall into neither one of those categories, and I’ve come to believe that this is one of the few true dichotomies that exist in life—food is either a sensual (of the senses) pleasure to you or it isn’t...there simply isn’t any gray area. If you find that when you plan a vacation your standard MO includes researching the best local eateries, you know which side of the fence you sit on.

For those of us that relish eating food, biting into a freshly picked sun-ripened tomato can be as spiritual as being in the presence of the Dalai Lama. When we taste a small bite of something, we chew it slowly and carefully, feeling it in our mouth and exploring its taste. When we smell something delicious, our mouths begin to water. With our eyes shut, we can recognize the difference between the scent of mint, basil, cilantro and dill, or the difference between the texture of an apple and a kiwi. There’s an entire world to explore in a single sip of soup or a single bite of an orange. When we eat in this way, flavors, colors, smells, textures and sights become more alive, and we open ourselves to the fact that ALL of life can be savored.

For those of us that relish preparing food, the kitchen is a place of transformation—where flour, yeast and honey become bread; where tomatoes, basil and garlic become a marinara; where eggs, cream and day old bread become bread pudding. But is also a place where WE, as cooks, can be transformed also—not only in the actual process of cooking, but in the act of feeding others, because when you cook with your soul, people can taste it. Your spirits have as much influence on your food as the ingredients you use. In fact, our word “spirit” comes from the Latin word for breath. So, if we are to eat well, then the artistry of cooking must also involve breathing as a sort of meditation—as we teeter the knife blade back and forth, as we glide across the kitchen floor, and as we stir the wooden spoon in the pot. When you get in that zone, a Tuesday night meal is cathartic...hell, in my house it’s psychotherapy!

I’m reminded of something I once read that came not from a book about food or cooking, but about magic, and how perceptions alter our actions:

“...I try to accept some conscious responsibility for creatures and vegetables
killed to feed me. the death is consecrated by my intention to cook well rather
than create junk food. For some people the justification for the sacrifice is that
‘this creature died that I might live’—personally I find that disgusting because
it simply trades my life for many others. I prefer to acknowledge that I could
always skip a meal, and so I am eating not to live but for pleasure. To me,
life is cheap—in a day or two any dead creature...will soon be swarming with
life—whereas joy is precious. Therefore I endeavour whenever possible to
cook like an artist, leave my plate clean and generally conduct my life as the
sort of elevated being that I might myself choose to be eaten by.”


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Jeff Gaynor

Amen, sister!!!!


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