Many people want to eat healthier and make their own meals, but are terrified of the kitchen.
It can be intimidating to start if you're not accustomed to cooking for yourself and have relied on restaurants and take-out food.
Home-cooked food has an energy that restaurant food simply does not have. When we prepare food, we put our intentions, our love, our respect and commitment to taking care of ourselves and our loved ones into the meal. This energy is as important as the actual food in nourishing our whole body.
If you are new to cooking but want to try, I offer this: Imagine yourself as an artist. The kitchen is your blank canvas, the stove, pots, pans, etc are your paintbrushes, and all of the different choices of food are your paint colors.
How do artists start with nothing and create something beautiful?
By using their imagination, intuition and patience. Creative, intuitive cooking means being completely present in the entire process and trusting yourself.
It means being aware of what you're doing, whether it's handling a sharp knife or delicately tearing fresh basil leaves. It's about connecting with your food and, in turn, with yourself.
Here are some easy ways to begin to cook mindfully:
1. Begin by reading recipes and collecting the ones that sound or look good to you.
Don't analyze the directions, just save the recipe and begin a file of recipes that have interested you for whatever reason. Browse through these and notice certain themes: soups, stews, seafood, pastries, desserts....Find out what process of cooking you are naturally drawn to. This is your Inspiration.
2. Start small.
Rather than attempt an entire meal on a busy weeknight or for a dinner party, try something simple when you have plenty of time. Great pieces of art were not made in a day. Start with an easy recipe that appeals to you and notice the steps involved and how it feels. The measuring, the sifting, the chopping, the dicing- all of this can be meditative if we are totally present to what we are doing.
3. Experiment with flavors and textures of food.
Again, start small and simple. Don't use an expensive cut of fish or meat to try out new flavor combinations. Beans, rice and tofu are all great ways to experiment with sauces and spices as they soak up whatever is added and can be made in small batches.
Breathe in the different aromas and make note of your reaction. Warming spices like cinnamon or nutmeg will be totally different than the sharp scent of tamari or the rich tropical smell of coconut oil. Become aware of each ingredient on a sensory level rather than mindlessly dumping in a package of instant powdered mix.
4. Be forgiving of yourself.
It's OK if you mess up, that's why you start small. Nothing bad will happen if your muffins come out like tennis balls. Hemingway wrote 39 endings to A Farewell to Arms before finding the right one.
The best thing that happens is you have learned what not to do and why. Take the lesson into future creations. Eventually you will figure out how to save a potential disaster just by adding or subtracting certain things. Failures are great teachers for future saves.
5. Have fun and relax.
Turn on some music, adjust the lighting, roll up your sleeves and allow yourself to enjoy the process of handling the food, smelling the ingredients and stirring the pot. Cooking is a very sensual experience and can be extremely creatively fulfilling if you can relax enough to trust yourself.
Notice how the aromas change as the food cooks. Watch as the colors of the vegetables darken or lighten. Notice the textures of the protein begin to take shape in the heat. Enjoy the unfolding of the process and the food will be filled with so much more than just nutrients: it will be filled with your love and inspiration.