Monday, February 27, 2006

On being a mindful cook: part 1

Before Christmas I was browsing in Books for Cooks. Clever clogs that I am, I’d finished present shopping days ago (it’s easy when the bulk of it has to be airmailed to another country ahead of time) and I had lots of time to indulge. I came across a modest, little tome called “The Mindful Cook: Finding awareness, simplicity, and freedom in the kitchen”. Now that’s a title that speaks my language. The book is plain, unillustrated, understated and thoughtful. There are exercises to get you thinking, some very zen recipes (the first one for a most chasteful dish of brown rice and tofu – but don’t let that put you off) and as you would expect, essays on food. From format to content, this is the antithesis of the usual gastroporn you find.

I am only at the beginning of this journey through culinary mindfulness, so if you want to join in, consider yourself tagged and play with the first exercise as a meme.

1. Your kitchen persona:
How do you picture yourself when you cook? Are you relaxed, anxious, hurried, preoccupied – write about what you like and don’t like about cooking.

I have multiple personalities when I cook. There is the solo show and performing for an audience. By myself I am more relaxed and fluid. Though a bit speedy, I am pretty happy and focused as I slice, dice, whiz, sauté and bake. I taste as I cook, usually guess measurements unless it is something requiring exactness. Sometimes there is music, often there is silence.

With others, I probably add a frown or two into the mix. It is hard to be as focused, especially if there is a glass of wine at hand. As much as I like wine, I sip little while cooking, the glass tends to get forgotten. Then if the conversation gets really interesting, my concentration is torn and in the end I have to decide what is more important – food or a good discussion.

I am learning to cook with my partner, we make a pretty good team. It helps me be less precious (and virgo) about how some ingredients need to be prepared but I prefer to be the one in control of seasoning. I’d make a better head chef than a kitchen hand, I fear.

Being experimental
Simple recipes
Detouring along the way, substitutions and recreations
Doing it “my way”

When I don’t read a recipe properly (then get to the bit about letting something marinate for hours…after I have already started cooking and getting hungry)
The physical limitations of my kitchen (but that is changing..more on that later)
The fact I am a bit of a control freak

By the end of the book I expect all that will change!

You are welcome to play with the other two questions in the exercise:

2. How do you imagine others perceive you when you are cooking? Ask a few friends or family to confirm or correct this perception.

3. What do you see as the major obstacles to being more comfortable and effective in the kitchen? Include in the list hang-ups, fears, preoccupations, and practical limitations.


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Blogger plum said...

That's bizarre! I have that exact book but no one else seems to have heard of it. And I was planning to read past the first chapter this year and try and focus a bit in the kitchen. Maybe this will inspire me!

11:02 pm  

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