A Culinary Journey to Begin Anew in 2024

As we bid adieu to 2023 and step into the welcoming embrace of a fresh new year and chapter of our lives, there’s one ritual I’ve come to know will travel with me to 2024 and beyond. That is the ritual of fostering a healthy habit of self-care that resonates through all five of my senses. Whether this past year has been a symphony of triumphs or a melancholy melody of challenges, allow the kitchen to become your sanctuary, offering solace and nourishment for both body and soul. 

Before delving into the culinary balm for those who have faced hardships, I’d like to make a toast to those who thrived in 2023. New Year’s Eve is behind us, but let’s raise a glass once more to those who soared through last year and triumphed. Whether it was a career milestone, personal achievement, or newfound happiness, congrats to you, my friend. Savor that success and acknowledge the fruits of your labor! 

For those grappling with loss and unwelcome change, the prospect of a new year can be downright daunting. Full disclosure: 2023 proved to be one of my most difficult years, but I found my way back to a therapeutic haven that has never let me down—my kitchen. What better place to utilize and treat your five senses?

The best recipe for engaging your senses while you cook is through the process itself. Let your eyes choose those gorgeous, colorful ingredients flirting with you in the produce section! Red bell peppers (wrinkle-free, of course), vibrant green arugula, or a beautiful pomegranate will definitely get your creative juices flowing. Take them home and transform them into something fantastic. The most important part of it all is to infuse your workspace with an air of calmness and serenity. 

For your ears, pop on music to fit the mood you’re in while you cook. Or how about listening to the sounds of chopping, simmering and stirring? Knead homemade pasta dough or massage marinades into your veggies or proteins to connect with your sense of touch. Do I even need to mention smell and taste? If you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh herbs, lightly rub them to release their natural aroma and add them along with delectable seasonings to your dish. Soups and stews still satisfy in this cold weather, so throw those into your pot! 

The Therapeutic Power of Cooking Through Grief 

If you’ve suffered through loss and grief in 2023, there are ways to heal. You guessed it, the act of conscious cooking is a strong first. 

  • Ritual and Routine: Establishing a cooking routine provides a sense of stability and purpose. Creating a meal becomes a ritual, allowing you to focus on the present moment and immerse yourself in a productive task. The habit needs nurturing, for sure. It’ll take practice, but once you get into the groove, it’ll become second nature and something you’ll look forward to after a long day of work. 
  • Expression of Creativity: Cooking becomes a canvas for creative expression, allowing you to channel emotions into flavors. Have you ever heard of a recipe called Angry Chicken? It’s packed with spiciness! Take your feels into the kitchen with you. You’ll be surprised at what you create with those in mind. And, believe it or not, experimenting with recipes becomes a great exercise for navigating the uncertainties of life and working through big feelings and emotions. 
  • Mindful Distraction: Engaging in the step-by-step process of cooking can distract you from overwhelming thoughts and, in turn, settle your brain static and calm your very core. Immerse yourself in the present moment, go back to the basics of your five senses, and focus on the sensory experience of it all. Bust out that cookbook you bought four years ago, and loosen the binding! 
  • Nourishment Beyond the Plate: Food isn’t just about physical sustenance. Cooking can be a great way to build connection and community. That recipe handed down from your grandmother (you know the one) is your escape to finding warmth and solace. Don’t focus on dietary restrictions—simply balance nourishing meals with those comfort foods that feel like the biggest, warm hug you’ll ever receive. 

It’s a new year with new possibilities, healthy healing, and endless opportunities. May your year be infused with the transformative power of cooking, nurturing both body and soul. You’re in charge, m’dear. Now go get it.  

Chamomile Lavender Dream Tea  

1 chamomile tea bag 
1 drop lavender extract or ½ teaspoon lavender buds 
1 tablespoon honey (or more to taste) 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon lemon juice 
A pinch of ground cinnamon 

Brew the chamomile by boiling 1 cup water. Pour it over the chamomile tea bag and dried lavender buds in a heatproof mug. Let it steep for 5 to 7 minutes to infuse the flavors. Remove the tea bag and lavender buds. 

To sweeten, stir in honey, vanilla extract, and lemon juice, sprinkle with a small pinch of cinnamon, and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving

Author

  • Ruthie Martinez

    Ruthie owns Black Fig Food catering and is proprietor of the online cooking platform Elevated Plant Plate. Learn more at blackfigfoodprograms.com and blackfigfood.com.

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