My mother hated to cook. To be entirely fair, this might be an understatement. She despised cooking and was bitterly surprised each and every day when “dinner time” rolled around again – as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as Haley’s Comet or something, done once and over with. Some family member aptly joked at her mid-November funeral service last year that she had timed her death to avoid another Thanksgiving Dinner.
I’m not sure how her antipathy toward cooking and relative disinterest to food in general began. When cornered by a direct question, she’d always relate it back to a charming childhood story wherein her sister enjoyed domestic chores and she preferred outdoor ones. But there was nothing charming about meals that were grudging prepared with more than a little undercurrent of resentment sprinkled in. Scenes of the Vietnam jungle and machine gun fire in the background added to the ambience of our usual family dinners. And who would be surprised to learn that I developed food issues later in life?
In an Ayurvedic Hindu household, both cooking and eating are seen as a form of worship. Cooking is a deliberate form of “prayer” and performed by those in a “happy mood” in order to provide the optimal flavor and nutrition to the meal prepared. Eating is also a joyful process, one in which the body – a temple for all religions – is honored with the fuel required to perform one’s duties here on earth. If this is true, then the vast majority of my childhood meals would make a Ayurvedic swami swoon. Mom sullenly slapping down the dinner dishes to the rat-tat-tat of an M-16 firefight halfway around the world doesn’t exactly qualify as the peaceful environment recommended by this philosophy.
While my yoga practice led me to read about Ayurvedic medicine and cooking, I haven’t adopted this method of self-care. Rather, I’ve picked up the morsels, so to speak, that fit with my life and my lifestyle. I do try to fix our meals and prepare our food carefully, deliberately, and thankfully. I truly like to chop and peel and slice in the sanctuary of the kitchen. It gives me time to think and plan. As for dinner itself, there’s a reason that 3-star Michelin restaurants don’t share space with raves, preferring softer music, muted lighting, and comfortable seating. One usually doesn’t argue that more relaxed dining leads to better digestion.
So, you roll your eyes: I learned the obvious. But it was new to me and remains a treasured discovery.