In our busy lives, grabbing food on the run or eating while standing at the kitchen counter is often the norm. Designating the kitchen as a practical sanctuary and seeing the sacredness of food not only makes it more conducive to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but also gives our spirits much-needed satiety.
“If we don’t touch the transcendent—emotionally and spiritually—physical nourishment won’t fill us up,” says Ronna Kabatznick, Ph.D., former psychological consultant to Weight Watchers International and the author of The Zen of Eating: Ancient Answers to Modern Weight Problems. “Seeing the kitchen as sacred is something that represents gratitude, beauty and blessings.”
Delia Baron, co-author of Better Together Kitchen: Beautiful Recipes to Share With People You Love
and the host of seasonal food workshops with partner Ronnit Hoppe in Melbourne, Australia, concurs, “The kitchen is often the heartbeat of the home and the best place to gather, feast, chat and create beautiful memories and rituals. The kitchen is also a place to connect to our food source.”
Fun and Felicity
Preparing meals the old-fashioned way can slow us down and foster mindfulness, but Kabatznick emphasizes that cooking is irrelevant. “Look at the kitchen in terms of possibilities: ‘What can I create in this space?’ You don’t have to turn into Julia Child,” she says, adding, “You could be eating Chinese takeout or a prune; it’s all about mindset and simple rituals like saying a blessing, appreciating what we eat as a great gift.” Kabatznick encourages everyone to eat with dignity, and this includes using the good dishes, putting fresh flowers on the table and eating with awareness.
Seeing the kitchen as the inspired nucleus of the home, it’s natural to add favorite items like art prints, colorful jars, sentimental treasures, dried flowers and other seasonal delights to nourish daily contentment. Conjuring an element of joy adorns the mundane. “Put on some music to put you in either a peaceful or joyful mood,” says Molly Larkin
, author, healing practitioner and blogger at Ancient Wisdom for Balanced Living
, in Corrales, New Mexico. “Turn off the TV and give everyone in the family a job. Laugh throughout the meal preparation. Dance as you cook. Do the same thing if you live alone.”
Preparing food, whether a healthy smoothie or a gourmet weekend dinner for two, is a way to express love for ourselves and others. Baron loves the presence of plants, lovely ceramics and interesting platters and dishes, and notes, “Families can definitely shop, chop, cook and meal-plan together to make the kitchen a fun place to be. Doing these things together is very bonding and sends the message that looking after yourself is important.”
Meal prep can be enjoyable and even relaxing in a calm environment. For Baron, organization is key. She advises, “Having all the ingredients you need and working in a clean space also helps make the experience rewarding.”
The smallest of kitchens can be abundant and organized with the help of a little innovation. A simple bookcase can offer additional shelf space for dry goods, bowls of produce or favorite cups. A small end table can hold a favorite tea pot and a jar of gourmet dark chocolate. A beautiful basket can hold go-to spice jars, and a pretty pitcher near the stove can accommodate a multitude of cooking utensils. “If you can’t fit it all out of sight in a cabinet, get some glass jars, fill them with grains, flours and legumes and line them up on the countertop. It will be neat, and you can see what you have,” suggests Larkin.
In the end, a well-nourished body and spirit fosters a beautiful life and inspires the same in others. An advocate for supporting the hungry in all communities, Kabatznick underscores local efforts and seeing the big picture of our relationship with food: “Taking out the garbage and cleaning up is also a sacred act if we bring that attitude into it. Food connects us to the Earth, the moon and the stars. From the seed to the truck driver—everything and everyone involved—the process of food is miraculous.”
Marlaina Donato is the author of several books and a composer.
Moroccan-Spiced Red Lentil Soup
photo by Marlaina Donato
Yields: 4 servings
4 cups water
1½ cup red lentils
1 tsp sea salt
1 medium-size organic carrot, chopped in bite-size pieces
2 soft, dried apricots, chopped, or 1 Tbsp golden raisins or 2 dates, chopped
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander seeds or ½ tsp crushed coriander seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed or ground cumin seeds
2 tsp extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
Bring water, carrots, apricots and all spices and seasonings to boil. Add red lentils, stir once and set heat to low. Cover pot with lid. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, remove from heat. Add olive oil and allow to sit for five minutes before serving.
Optional toppings for each bowl: finely chopped red onion, red pepper flakes, fresh cilantro and/or a sprinkle of turmeric.
Spring Fever Salad with Flowers and Fruit
photo by Marlaina Donato
Yields: 4 servings
1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce
8 medium-large organic strawberries, thinly sliced, or 2 small packages of fresh organic raspberries
Handful of fresh, chemical-free flowers from the garden or store’s produce section: nasturtium, pansies and/or calendulas; gathered wild: spring violets and dandelion blooms
Juice from one fresh tangerine
1 part organic apple cider vinegar to 2 parts avocado oil
Dash of sea salt
Add avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and salt into a large bowl, swirl around twice. Tear (don’t chop) lettuce and add to the preliminary dressing. Squeeze tangerine juice over lettuce and toss lightly until well-dressed. Place strawberry slices over salad. Sprinkle (don’t toss) flowers on top or artfully place where desired. Serve immediately.
Whole-Grain Dark Chocolate-Banana Muffins
Yields: 12 muffins
1½ cup organic whole-wheat flour, sifted (protein-rich, gluten-free option: 1 cup organic brown rice flour and ½ cup organic soy flour or 1 cup organic brown rice flour and ½ cup garbanzo flour)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice or turbinado
½ tsp salt
3½ tsp fresh baking powder
1 cup water or unsweetened non-dairy milk (or half of each to make a cup)
2 tsp extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil or cold-pressed sunflower oil
2 organic eggs, beaten (for vegan option: ¼ to ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce)
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1½ mashed ripe bananas
2 tsp molasses
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp dried ginger
2 dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of allspice (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400° F and grease muffin tin with sunflower or olive oil (or line with cupcake papers). Sift flour and cocoa powder into bowl. Add baking powder, salt, sugar and spices; mix well. Combine water/milk, vanilla, molasses, oil and eggs (or apple sauce), and add to dry mixture. Stir, lifting the spoon high with each stirring to get air into the mixture. Do not beat or overmix. Leave it a bit lumpy.
Fold in bananas. Fill muffin cups half to three-quarters full and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Place muffin tin on wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing each muffin by hand (avoid turning tin over to get muffins out, or the extra-moist, fruit-filled muffins might come apart).
Optional treat: Dip muffin tops into melted coconut oil and roll in coconut sugar or turbinado. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon.