Sacred Truth Ep. 65: Come Alive & Cook
In the realm of cooking a whole new ethos is being born. You don’t need to have every ingredient to make a recipe work. I no longer worry about coming into my kitchen and making a meal out of practically nothing—wilted spinach, whatever herbs I have in the garden, four eggs, an apple, half a carrot, and a piece of fresh ginger. Make up your own recipes. Don’t get hung up on measurements. Use them only as guidelines. Try a little more of something that intrigues you, a little less of what does not. If you like the look of some recipe you’ve come across but don’t have all the ingredients, substitute. At the age of 11, one of my sons, Jesse, decided to make Banana Bread. The recipe he found called for nine ingredients but he had only five. So he tossed all five of them together and whipped it all up. Much to his amazement and ours, he managed to create what we in the family thought was the nicest “Banana err...something or other” that we had ever tasted.
So put your kitchen scales away and forget the complex routines for preparing a béchamel sauce. You see, Come Alive Cookery breaks all the rules. It’s not rules that matter when preparing foods. It is a kind of passion for the foods themselves—a feeling reflected in your passion for the earth and life itself. You can watch this in a small child as he enthusiastically devours a bowl of fresh strawberries drizzled with honey. Such passion, which is visual, visceral, and sensuous, can become an inspiration in food preparation, which leads you automatically to make certain choices. If two things look good together they taste good together.
Open wide your kitchen window. Welcome the breezes of experiment, wit and spontaneity. The standard meal of roast meat and boiled Brussels sprouts topped off with a piece of sticky toffee pudding must be replaced by something far more hedonistic: slivers of raw Pacific salmon, luscious garden-fresh salads with a slice or two of Russian black bread followed by a winter sorbet of cranberry and mint—foods that are lighter, richer in top quality proteins, full of texture, flavor, and surprises.
I look on food as a source of both delight and life-energy passed on to us from the earth. And I believe this energy needs to be preserved by not cooking food too much but by eating it fresh and respecting its essential nature. That way meals become a medium for building the kind of natural vitality that protects your body from premature aging and illness, enhances good looks, and keeps your minds clear. It is the life-energy present in abundance in fresh foods and clean, simple proteins from fish, game, organic meat, and poultry that makes such foods irresistible. Shun manufactured convenience foods that fill up the shelves of supermarket. They’re dead and can make you feel dead if you eat them. Instead, use Real Food—fresh, organic stuff untainted by chemicals, preservatives, colorants, and phony flavor enhancers. We thrive on the kind of food our grandparents grew for themselves. Why? Because these foods are both the most delicious and the most life nurturing.
Your kitchen, big or small, should be treated like an artist’s atelier in which you can lose yourself in creative games. I remember as a child sitting in front of an old Stanley stove gazing into the flame filled with delightful visions as my grandmother canned pears, peaches, and green beans for winter. My kitchen is more like a sculptor’s studio than a food preparation station. It is a place where I can laugh with friends, workmates, and family while discussing both serious and trivial stuff as we prepare meals together.
Every kitchen should be a space that reflects things that delight you or amuse you. Twenty years ago I bought a gigantic soup ladle that has hung above my sink ever since. It is so big I use it only rarely. It would be ideal for a Salvation Army soup kitchen. Practical? Not really. But I love its beautiful shape and the absurdity of its size makes me laugh.
In India the best foods are those you buy in the cheapest cafés because they have been made with love and joy (sometimes with humor too). The word “café” is really a euphemism, since these places are little more than a few stone slabs in which a fire has been built for cooking. Yet the foods they sell are infinitely better tasting, more nourishing and “safer”—less likely to cause Delhi belly than all the fancy foods you get in India’s most expensive restaurants and hotels.
Unless each dish you prepare is invested with love—or at least lots of affection—the meal will be dead. Have you noticed how much better food tastes when it’s cooked by someone who likes cooking? This is not because they know what they’re doing; it’s because they love what they do. The bottom line is simple: Experiment and enjoy. The rewards can be endless in terms of health and sensuous pleasure. Above all...have fun!