I hunger for a life filled with magic in the smallest of things.
I am nostalgic for a childhood when everything was new so anything was a miracle. Now the miracles seem to be buried in our day to day lives, the routines and mundanities.
Here’s the secret: that is where the magic happens.
Take food, for example. We eat so many times a day that our routines are structured around mealtimes. Yet, so many of us rush through our meals, we forget to really taste our food.
I really do believe that the best kind of people are the people who love food. I am firmly in the camp that thinks sleep is just a time machine to breakfast. Though this may be a gluttonous sentiment, perhaps we should be more open to the possibility that good food could be the key to a good life.
Eating well has so much to teach us about living well. Each meal time is an opportunity to nourish, share and create. If we give food the right attention and intention, our day could be structured around these possibilities.
It sounds simple. Yet our relationship to food is so complex. This relationship is unique to each of us as individuals, shaped by our experiences, family and preferences.
My love affair with food is a slow-burning romance. It took a while for me to realize that my favorite countries that I have traveled to are also the places where I have eaten best. Though this might be an indulgence, of both the self and stomach kind, I have outlined here the meals that quite literally changed my life. I hope to share with you what eating well has taught me about living well. My great wish is that by sharing, whether it be a meal or these lessons, we can all learn to find magic in life’s small things.
Eat Mindfully. Be Present.
On a veranda in Cambodia, rickety and hot, my yoga teacher asked me how often I really taste my food. When I think of him I remember his mustache and the imperative to be present.
It takes practice. After the yoga class, I sat down for a meal of Amok, a traditional Cambodian curry. I tried to focus on the flavors, the spices and the fresh produce. I really tasted my food. But I struggled to maintain this focus for the entire meal. One year later, I still find I need to practice this mindfulness every single day. But it is worth it. When you are really present with your food and with your life, you can truly suck the marrow from existence.
Food Is Connection. Treasure Your Relationships.
Barefoot on stone floor, somewhere between the saffron and the cinnamon, I found a connection. The power flickered off – a teetering moment – before the kitchen returned to dim relief. The week that I had spent in Sri Lanka had been shaky; in fact my whole body reverberated with culture shock. I felt disconnected. That was until that moment, barefoot and saffron scented, in the kitchen.
The kitchen was populated by a grandmother, mother and daughter – and in this presence I felt connected to a feminine tradition. The grandmother held up each spice for me to smell and feel, before throwing it into the pot. We ate with our hands and I felt connected to my body and those around me.
The best meals remind us that food is ultimately relational. Sharing food is a tool for connection. Perhaps it would be better if we put more energy into finding true connection than we put into finding a WiFi connection. If we recognized that our needs as social creatures are not met by social media. Food can help us to create real connection in our life.
Eat Seasonally. Embrace Change.
Sweden truly is a midsummer night’s dream. It was midnight, the sun had not yet set, and we were sharing crayfish, fresh potatoes, and berries. We were making up for lost time. Everyone knew that, in six months, the sun would not even rise. It is because Swedish winters are so dark that Swedish summers are so bright.
That is also why the Swedish calendar is divided by foods. An awareness of when to eat certain foods permeates Swedish culture.
I love this. As cliché as it is, variety really is the spice of life. Though we now can freeze, store and import just about any food on the planet, seasonal eating is still so important to Swedish culture. This is food the way that nature intended it, prepared in a way that honors the rhythm of the seasons. This kind of eating can eliminate processed foods and put us on the path toward sustainable eating. Perhaps it might help us to focus on sustainability and the environment throughout other aspects of our life. When we eat with the seasons we are drawn closer to our ecosystem; we live in tune with nature. This rhythm celebrates change. Life is better when we fully embrace it.
Julia Child said that no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. In this case, when eating well can teach us so much about living well, one learns by eating. So feel free to have a second helping.