Now that we’ve emerged on the other side of the holiday hustle and bustle, can we all just take a breather? Are you truly ready to begin that 21-day exercise challenge or some other new habit for a “new you?” Not this gal. I am still in hibernation mode! Instead, I fill my January with rest, reflection, dreaming, and planning. I infuse mindfulness into my day-to-day life. And, because I love to cook more than anything, that mindfulness begins in my kitchen.
The kitchen should be the gathering place where we experience laughter, cooking and eating with others. It is a room where we can connect with our minds while our creativity is set free. As a child, I experienced it as a magical space where my mother willingly spent a lot of her time.
I remember my mom having everything she needed in order to cook: ingredients measured, equipment ready to go, and music playing on the radio. To me, it was the ideal of an artistic mind at work. That appealed to me in the most powerful way. I’d watch her sway her hips to music in the background as she formed each tortilla. She carefully placed each portion onto the counter, layering one on top of the other with a bit of flour sprinkled in between. They looked like precisely-placed fluffy clouds of goodness I was surely ready to devour. What I didn’t know until later in life was that she was practicing mindful cooking. She connected with the ingredients, honored their presence, and enjoyed her time in the kitchen. She LOVED to cook.
I would almost bet that YOU love to cook, too. I see you! If you’re anything like me, you love it so much that you care for and organize your kitchen space on the reg. Everything has its place, and when you’re finished using it, you put it back where it belongs, right? You also have tubers, tomatoes, and onions nestled inside pretty decorative bowls just so you can whisper sweet nothings to them as you enter the room. If so, you’re right where you need to be, shug. But just in case you need a refresher, here is a simple breakdown on the fundamentals of setting up a mindful kitchen:
1. Plan Ahead
Before you rush into the kitchen, make sure the kitchen is ready for you. Your mindset is important for setting clear intentions about what you want to accomplish. What sort of mood do you want to be in when you set a cooking session in motion? How do you want your completed dish to look? Do you have all of the tools you need?
There are times when I have a stack of books, a set of headphones, my purse, and random ingredients on the kitchen counter. A cluttered kitchen won’t be an inspiring space to create. Clear the clutter! Store whatever you don’t use often. Take inventory of your drawers and cabinets. Get rid of broken or unused utensils or appliances. Wipe down shelves and refresh shelf paper or liner. Organize your countertops. Sharpen your knives. This process takes time, so go slow and enjoy the ride.
You don’t have to cook a four-course meal every single night. Make it easier on yourself by planning out your weekly meals, which helps you determine which nights merit a beautiful, simple meal. Maintain ingredients, such as dark leafy greens, veggies, canned or pre-cooked beans, artichoke hearts, grains, homemade dressing, and fresh fruit. You can toss a gorgeous salad together for dinner in a flash. Start small and add elements as you learn more about building dishes from scratch. In no time, you’ll graduate to roasting root vegetables and adding herbs and spices, nuts and seeds to your salads.
One game we love to play is Chopped. My husband rules the roost on this one. We clear out the fridge of ingredients that need to be eaten before they expire, and come up with a dish using those items. It’s so much fun seeing what he creates each time. My game plan usually involves a large pot of soup I like to call Everything but the Kitchen Sink.
A Journey For Swooning
Anything that brings us joy or makes us swoon is something to anticipate with pleasure. For me, the ritual of shopping, cooking and eating is my sweet spot. It’s essential.
Shopping: With my grocery list and coffee in tow, I shop to refresh and stock up on spices, fresh produce, and other basics needed for the week. Make it your Saturday outing. Visit local farmers’ markets, growers and independent shops. You’d be surprised just how inexpensive shopping for seasonal food can be when you have a plan.
Cooking: Once you’ve unpacked your groceries, step back, stretch and breathe. Grab a drink, put on some music, and leisurely put your items away. It’s absolutely fine if you want to smell and feel the vegetables as you place them in the crisper. It’s perfectly OK if you quietly tell them what surprises you have in store for their transformation. Get excited to cook. You’ll be delighted by the conversations you will have with your ingredients as you shape them into a more fantastical existence. The more you practice mindful cooking, the more you will grow in confidence. Your keen sense of knowing how much seasoning a dish needs or when to stir your food will become second nature.
Eating: This is easily my favorite part, as it is a major component of swooning over a good meal. Sit down and enjoy your labor of love! To ease any fatigue you might feel after a day of shopping and cooking, stop and stretch again. Close your eyes and breathe as you get ready to begin your epicurean journey. Set your table with a cherished tablecloth, light a candle, or adorn your table with fresh flowers. Give your environment that extra touch to stay in the spirit of happiness you had while cooking. Allow the meal to help you silence the noise in your mind for just a few seconds as you taste the food. Savor each bite.
Bravo, my friend. You did it. You now know how to set up a mindful kitchen. View it as a room for creativity, laughter and togetherness. By infusing mindfulness into our time in the kitchen, we can create a space free from stress and full of joy. So, set aside some time to be present in your kitchen today, and get into the habit of creating a mindful kitchen all year round!