If you've read a fair bit of my blog, you may recall the Chocolate Meditation I did when I first began my mindfulness journey. You may recall the way the meditation was all about understanding the ways we can enjoy the most mundane and every day of tasks if we approach it mindfully.
You may recall that, upon mindfully eating what I had previously thought to be my favourite type of chocolate, I realised it was actually quite disgusting when I really tasted it. I comfort eat, which I'm super aware of, and chocolate is one of my biggest weaknesses when I'm feeling sad (in a stereotypically girly fashion). I've actually cut back a fair amount since that meditation opened my eyes to the way I sometimes shovel down food that makes me feel good without stopping to find out whether it actually tastes good. I've realised I much prefer dark chocolate, and how odd it seems to not know what kind of food you do/don't like, but often times if you're just eating to eat then the taste doesn't matter as much as you might think. This approach has helped me cut out a lot of gross foods and drinks, and actually lead me to the book I'm going to be talking a little bit about in this blog.
It's a cookbook that encourages the reader to approach both the preparation and the consumption of food in a mindful way. The aim of it is to making cooking a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience, and to also promote healthy eating through encouraging us to experience food as more than just a thing to make us feel full or even to fill an emotional gap. You prepare really sensory food, things with great smells and varying textures, to involve you wholly in the experience of cooking and eating, and to use it as a moment to focus and organise the thoughts which may be firing off in your head as rapidly as I know they fire in mine.
So I tried one of the first recipes, something called "Moroccan Eggs"
(Spoiler, it didn't end up looking like the picture AT ALL)
This recipe seemed to hinge a lot on smells. There are lots of spices in it like cinnamon and coriander, and this delicious mix of spices called 'ras el hanout' which I had never heard of until looking at this recipe (they sell it at Tesco's in paste form, FYI).
It starts with onion and garlic, two of my favourite things, and I remember the sound of them sizzling in the pan with olive oil (kind of like the sound of white noise), and the sounds of all my utensils clinking, thumping, and scraping around as I used them. I remember the sight of the bright red cherry tomatoes and green coriander, and the feeling of mashing and stirring them so they cooked up into the sauce, which was a little chunkier than I expected but delicious. The spicy smell of the ras el hanout (it smells so good, guys...) with the fresh, sweetness of the tomatoes and red pepper (it wasn't in the recipe but I added it for extra deliciousness) made this really sweet-but-savoury taste with, surprisingly, little to no spicy heat behind it.
All the senses are being tickled in some way, is what I found out, and in the meanwhile I wasn't stressed at all. Of course, I wanted to get things into the pan on time without whatever was in before it burning. Of course, there were moments where I couldn't find an ingredient under my mess, or I had two or three things going on at once. I was busy, but it was pleasant, and never once overwhelming.
Wouldn't it be great if life could be like that? If you could take on as many tasks as was necessary but still be able to cope without fear?
I think you may be able to guess what I'm going to say next.
It's possible! Of course it's possible, and this book is all about taking a regular task, something many of us do every day, and showing us that it's possible? How? Through awareness of our surroundings through our major senses, and using that to ground us in reality rather than panicking about the past or future.
Not only that, but it's also all about making us aware that mindfulness is all about pacing yourself, and how once you're able to approach at least one thing mindfully, several other things fall into place. If you can approach cooking mindfully, you begin to enjoy food more (preparing and eating) and look for foods that excite your senses and make you feel good. That equates to better health, more energy, better sleep, and suddenly you have the power to approach more things mindfully and improve your quality of life further!
It's all a very delicious ploy to show you that the first step towards change makes step 2, 3, and so on much easier. It's like a domino effect into wellness, as long as you keep that momentum going, of course.
Personally, I've been cooking more and trying new and interesting combinations. I'm making batches of things I can take to work rather than buying junk food on my breaks, and while I'm obviously not just shedding weight quite yet, I can already see the benefits of this first step in a slightly higher amount of energy and better looking skin.
And all from eating delicious food? Hell yeah!