Have you ever noticed that good food prepared at home by someone who loves you affects you differently from store bought, or food from a restaurant? I am a believer that love nurtures not only the spirit, but also the body. Now as we enter the craziness of the holiday season, we are bound to find ourselves at parties and restaurants more than usual.
To counteract this indulgence, I try to make my home cooked meals as loving and comforting as possible. I come from a Cuban family. My grandmother is known as ‘the cook’ in the entire, extended family. And for Cubans, this means something. I remember how every Sunday we would go visit her for family dinner and she would have the table filled liked Thanksgiving. She would go to painstaking lengths to make the food as healthy as possible, making sure every trace of fat was removed from the meat and using the best ingredients she could afford.
She would spend days preparing the Sunday dinner, not to mention the extra food she packed for us to eat during the week. I distinctly remember the day in school when the teacher asked the class how many times we ate at McDonalds per week. In our family it was the occasional “treat”, for the majority of the class it was dinner several times per week.
This is when I first realized how special it was to have my grandmother’s cooking. Inspired by my grandmother, I developed the same interest in creating healthy meals for my family. Now with a husband and son to feed, we eat at home most nights of the week. I try my best to make food that is interesting, nourishing and pride myself on a five-year-old son who has an amazing palate. I believe there is an invisible energy that gets transferred into food prepared for loved ones. It tastes different. It feels different in the body. It affects us differently.
Lets face it, in a restaurant food preparation is driven by reducing costs - how they can make it fast and cheap. Food has that over-flavored “restaurant taste” as my husband says, to force you to balance it out with alcohol or dessert. I often come home from a corporate chain restaurant feeling bloated and unhappy. There is a totally different set of priorities than someone cooking at home.
To get in the zone of cooking with love for your family, I recommend performing a bit of a ritual cool down to keep it mindful. It can be putting on your apron, lighting a candle, listening to soothing music, or reading through your recipe and preparing all the ingredients in advance, mise en place style, to get you in a mindful state of mind.
Before you rush to put everything on the table pause a moment to take it all in. Look at what you prepared, smell it, taste it. Drink a glass of water to neutralize. You just went from the focus of cooking, now to receiving the food. You want your body to relax and mellow out so you can enjoy the meal and company of your loved ones. People will appreciate you and the food you made with love for them, and believe it or not, it may have a strong impact on them in the future. Just like my grandma’s cooking has on me.