Switching up the weekend recipe posts today with a topic that I've been meaning to write about for ages now - how to keep a hippie kitchen. I struggled with what to call this piece as I couldn't clearly come up with a title that encapsulated all I wanted to get across. It was a tough balance of finding something that didn't sound too out there, but still summed up the point of the piece. Regardless, don't let the title put you off. These steps are easy, useful, everyday practices that I'm sure you're already using in some capacity, or maybe used to use but have just fallen out of the habit. These 12 suggestions are great ways to start to bring more mindfulness, gratitude, and green living into your kitchen, something we all need more of. In the future, I plan on going into some of these steps with greater detail, but this outline is a great place to start.
1. CLEAN KITCHEN, CLEAR MIND
While this may sound obvious, having a clean space is the most important step in food preparation. Creative ideas and innovation will not come to you if your work area is in a state of chaos. Every night before I go to bed I make sure all the dishes are washed ( + preferably put away), the countertops are wiped, the stove top cleaned, any grains or beans I need for the next day are soaked, and the floor swept. Treat your kitchen like it's your work zone and be respectful of it, and in return you'll be rewarded with more inspiration. It's also helpful to constantly clean as you go. Leaving a large mess until the end of the day will not only dam your creative juices while you're trying to work, but will result in a more daunting and sometimes overwhelming mess when all you want to do is relax after a hard days' work.
2. COOKING AS A PRACTICE
Like yoga, the piano, or painting, cooking is a practice and a constant state of learning. To find peace in the kitchen you must first be aware, attentive, and mindful of the food, your body, and your state of mind.
- Be Present - Taste, touch, and smell when you're cooking. Listen to the food and what it's telling you (add more acid, needs more salt). Beyond that, listen to what your body wants. Have you been craving sushi lately? Maybe you're low on the protein, potassium, or iron found in seaweed. Your body knows what it needs the most, so take the time to listen. When we are present, we are open to new ideas.
- Listen to how you feel. Are you stressed, nervous, rushed? This energy will go into your food and have an effect on the taste, and you're experience. Try to channel your creative energy before cooking. I know this can be difficult, but it is important to be fully present while cooking.
- Rituals - Just like my nightly kitchen clean, rituals help keep us on track and bring us together. Mealtimes should be special so find what rituals make cooking and eating special for you. We like to serve our food in nice handmade bowls, use linen napkins, put on some gentle music, light the odd candle, and sit and discuss our days.
- Express Your Gratitude - Regardless of if you follow a religion doctrine or not, it is important to stop before you eat and take a moment to express you're gratitude. Being grateful feels good, it helps shift our worldly outlook from a state of negativity to one of thankfulness, and connects us to the food we eat. Think of what you're about to eat. Where did it come from, who grew it, pay thanks to the water and energy that went into it, and who you're sharing it with. Shifting perspective like this can have a profound effect on ones outlook towards the food they eat and help ground them a little more into the earth.
3. YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN BACTERIA
Modern society fears bacteria, but good bacteria prevents disease, obesity, and promotes healthy digestion. If you don't already, try adding some plant based fermentation to your diet. Sauerkraut, kimchi, probiotic pickles (the kind you find the refrigerator section), miso, water kefir, you name it, it's great. While making your own fermented foods is the best way to increase your good gut bacteria, the store brand products which have been made with traditional preparation (and are not pasteurized) are just as good.
4. FOOD IS MEDICINE (BUT IT'S ALSO MORE THAN THAT)
I've met people in my life who only view food as fuel to get them through. While that perspective may work for them, they are also missing out key social aspects. We're more than machines that need energy, we're also living, breathing humans who desire nurture and attention. Eat an array of healthy veggies, beans, and whole grains for your health and well being. Follow elemental eating, ayurvedic diets, or the Whole 30 if that suits you, but also be aware that it's not just the food you put in you that is healthiness, it's how you cook it.
Make cooking a relaxing and therapeutic endeavour. Cook with others, get your hands dirty, and most importantly share your food with those around you. Finally, remember that sometimes things like ice cream and potato chips are just as medicinal as that turmeric milk, especially if shared with those you love. Food is there to be enjoyed.
5. FAT IS YOUR FRIEND
I'm sure many of you grew up in the 90's on skim milk and the fear of fat. But fat is essential to our brain's function, our metabolism, healthy bones, hair, and skin. Be sure to add some healthy fat like avocado, nuts and seeds (or their butters), flax oil, olive oil, coconut oil (yes it's saturated but it's also anti-fungal/anti-viral), or ghee (if you do dairy) to your meals.
6. SOAK, SPROUT, RINSE, REPEAT
Soaking and sprouting your grains, seeds, and beans is an approachable way to make food more nutritious (+ totally earth mama-like) without breaking the bank. Once sprouted, inexpensive beans and lentils can add excitement, pizzaz, and nutrient to a meal. Much like sprouting, soaking grains ends their dormancy period, igniting all the nutrition inside them that is needed to turn a seed into a plant. Not only does sprouting increase vitamins like iron, selenium, and zinc, it also breaks down the carbohydrates and neutralizes anti- nutrients like phytic acid. Try sprouting your own beans and seeds in a mason jar, or soaking your beans, rice, and other grains in water with a little acid (like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) before cooking.
7. WASTE NOT WANT NOT
Food waste is a HUGE problem in our society today. The average Canadian wastes 183 Kg (403 Lbs) food annually and the average American even more. While jumping into a life of dumpster diving may not be for you, there are small changes we can all make to ensure we're not wasteful.
- Check the inventory of your fridge before you go shopping.
- Shop more frequently and buy less.
- Use produce that may not look perfect - have a kabocha going mouldy? Cut off the mouldy section and use the good part (and know what veggies you can save from mould).
- Process or freeze extra fruits or veggies or ones that have started to go limp.
- Use items that are past their best before date if they still smell and look fine. It's just a "best before", not an expiry date.
- Save food scraps like onion skins, carrot peelings, and celery leaves in the freezer to make stocks, and always be sure to compost that which you cannot use.
There is this proverb I heard once, that food should be treated as special as your eyesight. It is to be cherished and treated with respect as though it was your window to the world. If that isn't enough, think of the Japanese world mottainai which is a Buddhist word, tradition, and cultural practice which means "regret over waste" and the Japanese saying that each uneaten grain of rice is a tear of the farmer who grew it.
W.W.G.D -What would Grandma do? When in doubt, channel your grandparents (or great grandparents depending on your age). Before the massive industrialisation of the '50's our ancestors ate seasonally (no strawberries in January thank you), locally, and made most of their food at home. Beyond the 'from scratch' method, our ancestors didn't waste nearly as much. My grandparents were raised during the depression and by the time of the Second World War, were working on growing families. Because of the insecure times they lived though, they would never dare think of wasting anything. Still to this day I can recall my mother getting chastised from my Granny about how much potato she was wasting by using a knife to peel them compared to the vegetable peeler. Looking back to step 7, everything counts.
9. CHANNEL YOUR HERBS, FLOWERS, + POWDERS
Simple dishes can be taken to the next level with the addition of a few spices, herbs, edible flowers, or fancy adaptogenic powders. Yes, the trendy powders are expensive, but things like spices and herbs are totally within budget. Try adding whole seeds like cumin to your next batch of roasted carrots, smoked paprika to your next batch of hummus, or some basil oil drizzled on your next veggie soup. Dried edible flowers like lavender, corn flowers, and calendula can be added to pies, cakes, and cookies, while fresh edible flowers like nasturtiums and borage can be used in salads. And always do some research to make sure you have an edible plant before eating it :).
10. REUSABLE ALL THE WAY
I'm sure that many of you are great about bringing your own cloth bags to the grocery store, but what about produce bags? One thing I like to do when I go to the market is never take the plastic bags that are offered for fruits and veggies (instead, I just put them in my basket loose and organize them at them till). For bulk items like grains and nuts, I love using bags like these or homemade ones like these. Other choices you can make at the grocery store are avoiding produce which is already bagged or wrapped in plastic, and choosing the bulk versions instead.
11. LABEL + DISPLAY
Grains, beans, pastas, flour, spices, and nuts should all be placed in areas where you can see them and are more likely to use them (this also goes back to point one about having a well organized kitchen). Items which don't go bad like grains, pasta, beans, and baking supplies can be stored in labeled glass jars (label flours especially to avoid confusion) and things that spoil like nuts and seeds are best in the fridge. Beyond looking cute, having different foods visible to you means you'll be more likely to grab them and use them - why make this instant ramen when there is a jar of red lentils I could make into dal?
I don't know how better to say this, so I might as well be 100% hippie-dippy and quote some folk music. So, as Judy Collins sang - Well, our door is always open/ And there's surely room for more / Cooking where there's good love /Is never any chore
Maybe a little corny, yes, but cooking with love is the most important ingredient we got. I'll have to admit that sometimes cooking is a chore. It can be annoying and there are other things I'd rather be doing, but those emotions of annoyance are just energy which can easily be transformed to another form of energy, love.
Cooking with love makes you more open and receptive. It allows you to be accepting to imperfection (of you, the product, the food) and to practice cooking with a certain sincerity and honesty that comes from getting rid of your ego. Love fills you with appreciation for your ingredients, gratitude, and patience which is essential for a natural kitchen.
Through cooking and preparing meals for yourself, you also exhibit self love - you feed yourself, those around you, you're community, and you use your body for what it's intended for - to be simulated though touch, taste, and smell, so put those hands to good use.