Bringing the Sacred into the Kitchen

Bringing the Sacred into the Kitchen

By Charity Dasenbrock

Eating Psychology is a relatively new field of study that explores the emotional, psychological, and spiritual sides of nutrition. As an Eating Psychology Coach, I see these aspects as equal to the physical elements. Balancing one’s stress, learning to find pleasure in food, and bringing in sacred and spiritual beliefs is just as important as balancing one’s macronutrients and eating organic food when possible. Marc David, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (http://psychologyofeating.com), talks about the 8 universal metabolizers which are powerful biologic rejuvenators that are essential to our health and contribute greatly to our well being. These are relaxation, quality, awareness, rhythm, pleasure, thought, story, and the sacred.

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Having loved cooking my whole life, I was naturally curious about how these elements could be brought into that process and into the kitchen. Having been on a quest for the Divine for many years and having found a deep spiritual path, I am curious about the sacredness of food, eating, and cooking. Having struggled with, and still being a work in progress with my relationship to food, eating, and my body, I know that having a strong relationship with God/ the Sacred/ whatever words are comfortable to use and hear is of utmost importance.

It may be challenging for you to think of food as sacred or holy, and cooking as a sacred act. It may be difficult to think about prayer and ritual. Our beliefs are so very personal, as they should be. We each have our own path to follow and our own words that we use. I believe that if we look deep into our hearts and our core, our beliefs are all more alike than different.

All human beings eat. We are social beings. We are emotional beings. Here is a common thread. All religions and all spiritual paths have rituals and traditions that involve food and eating… Seems like a good place to start finding peace and harmony to me!

What are some things a modern person can do to find and deepen that Sacred connection – to food, to the task of cooking, to creating nutrition and nourishment for ourselves and our loved ones?

In most houses, the kitchen is really the center of the action, with people cooking or people doing homework. Often a television chatters, or a computer clicks away. It’s often where we sit and have a serious conversation and make important decisions. It might be the place where we finish off that bottle of wine with your best friend, or help your child with something special.

Take a look at your kitchen. Do this from a place of love and openness. Keep judgment at bay. How does it make you feel? Are you happy in this room? Does it make you feel connected to those spiritual ideals you hold? Does it reflect those beliefs and who you are? If not, there is a place to work, to establish a connection to your soul. Make it a beautiful comfortable room. Let the colors and decoration reflect your connection to the Divine. Keep it as clean and uncluttered as you are able. Let go of what you don’t use. Organize the drawers and cupboards so that they are efficient and things are easy to find. Put up some artwork, perhaps print and frame some inspirational quotes. Add some plants and fresh flowers to brighten it up and bring in the outdoors. Open the windows and listen to what is outside.

There is a reason people tend to gather in this room. It is a place of nourishment, and far more than our bellies get fed there. People come to be comforted and taken care of. For the majority of us, we know love through being fed, starting of course as babies. Eating is emotional and as adults, we often find refuge of some sort in food. I find it as well in cooking for and feeding others. If the refrigerator is full, we can feel safe and free to move on from whatever hungers we may be feeling. The kitchen has long been a place where people have deep conversations and make important decisions. In your own kitchen, make it comfortable for people to gather. If there is room, how about adding a sofa or easy chairs? If not, make sure the table is clear and welcoming. Be open to having others come and help you in the kitchen. Invite your family in while you cook dinner, either to help you or just keep you company.

Our kitchen connects us to the wider world. We connect to different cultures through learning their ingredients and recipes. We connect with family with memories of foods eaten in the past and shared recipes. Make an effort to try some new kinds of foods. You could even make it a family event and learn a bit about whatever country or culture you choose. My parents had lived in Mexico in the first years of their marriage. In Ohio in the 1950s, things like avocados and tortillas were not often available. When our local grocer was able to get avocados, he would let my mother know. We would have Mexican night. Our parents would speak Spanish and my brothers and I would do our best. I would wear my mom’s beautiful reboso, her Mexican shawl and some of her jewelry. Sombreros came out. Refried beans, tortillas, avocado… It is a good memory.

We connect with the earth and all her bounty with every bite that we prepare and take. Take time to connect with the plants and animals we consume. We connect with those who helped bring that food to us in whatever way – at the store and in the fields. We can remember those who don’t have a kitchen, or their refrigerators and cupboards are pitifully empty. Make this a conscious activity. Prayers, making it a dinnertime conversation, educating your family and friends – all of these will depend and strengthen that sacred aspect of nutrition and nourishment. Find a path to daily gratitude even when, or especially when, the cooking becomes a chore. In gratitude and service, we connect to the Divine. If you are not comfortable with prayer or saying grace, perhaps you could have a moment when all at the table share something for which they are grateful.

For millennia, people have recognized both the honor and duty involved in cooking and tending to peoples’ hunger. Many spiritual traditions hold the cooks and the kitchen workers in high esteem. Think of cooking for others and ourselves as a great service. Yes, it has to be done, but do it with love and compassion, and those emotions and powers will grow. Slow down, breathe, listen, feel. Open your heart to receive the blessings of the kitchen. You become stronger and more whole as a person, as do your loved ones, whether they are in the kitchen with you or not. Your health, physical, emotional, and spiritual, will improve.

Indigenous cultures consider food sacred and a gift from the Gods. It is a gift from the earth, helped by the sacred waters and the sun. I think many of us, as Americans and Westerners, have lost that connection, or at least the acknowledgment of it. The more we can actually connect and interact with our food – touching it, participating, cooking it, growing it, and buying it from the farmers – the more that will come back to us. We will recognize and remember that feeling. It’s there, in your soul. Try and taste it. In whatever way you believe, or in whatever way is possible for you, recognize and honor the connection between our food, the earth, whatever you think of as the Creator, and ourselves. Allow that beautiful, sacred energy to heal and enrich our lives. Give thanks.

About the author:
Charity Dasenbrock is the author of “Through the Fire: Cooking Our Way Into a New Relationship with Food.” She is a personal chef, certified Eating Psychology Coach and blogger. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Beloit College and a master’s degree in special education from San Francisco State University. Dasenbrock has been part of a committed spiritual healing path for more than 30 years, and currently resides in central California. For more information, visit– http://charitydasenbrock.com.

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