Healthy Kitchen

How healthy is your kitchen?

I’m not talking about how clean you keep your countertops or how many organic vegetables are neatly organized in your fridge; nor am I concerned with the state of the dishes, sink or your small wastebasket designated for composting. What I am talking about is how well your kitchen supports healthy food choices.

Yes, that is correct. Your kitchen makes decisions that affect your health.

The environment of the most important room in the house greatly dictates how one approaches food.

Traditionally, the kitchen was the center of activity in the home. In the Vedic science of establishment called sthapatya veda, the kitchen is the furnace from which warmth and life springs. In feng shui, the kitchen represents nourishment and prosperity, sustaining life. And in many other societies, the kitchen acts as a sphere of social, familial, and political connectivity. Literally, the center of life, the kitchen radiates heat, replenishes energy and connects society.

Today, however, the kitchen has become a wasteland of shiny appliances and unused barren spaces. Once the largest room in the home, the kitchen has now been reduced to a mere box. Barriers divide it from the rest of the house, keeping it segregated and confined.

The modern kitchen, rather than inciting words like warmth, comfort and love, is instead synonymous with adjectives like sterile and sanitary. It is no wonder we do not know how to feed ourselves. The very instrument used to create nourishment has been transformed into a metallic machine incapable of inspiring the brightest souls.

In order to reclaim our health, we must first reclaim the kitchen.

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How I love my kitchen.

If there is one thing I can always depend on, it is my kitchen.

I absolutely love cooking. In the kitchen, I am thrust into a ballet of organic symphony. A simultaneous unfolding of what can only be described as magic happens when I enter my kitchen. All the elements of the universe combine, forging a tremendous surge of creation that spawns in my imagination, at my fingertips, and in the air around me. I can breathe in the meal before I’ve even opened the fridge.

My passion is not just in cooking, but in living. The life of the kitchen is the pulse of my home. The beat of its heart is in the flames of the range.  The sound of its breath steadied in the sway of my knife. Each ingredient is an organ, playing its vital role in the development of something much greater than its components. The air is full of density, heavy with scent. Lingering notions of ingredients surrender their individuality for the greater good.

I can come into my kitchen and leave my life. Departure in the most serene sense. I become my meal. My body, my thoughts are no separate from the tiles I stand upon. Nor am I any different from the food I eat. My intentions are of love, to create a better world. There are so few moments of the day that are as tangible as the procession of creation that occurs in the kitchen. A timed and timeless unfolding of such ease and clarity is measured by procedure and translated through sensation. I must chop vegetables, heat a pan, and gain enlightenment.

In this process, my kitchen becomes an alter for which I am the priest. Both a servant and recipient of the wondrous bounty of unlimited energy. It doesn’t matter who I am, what I think, or how I feel. My kitchen always takes me in.



Home Cooking

There is absolutely nothing better than cooking at home.  And I’m not talking about my cramped up little kitchen in the East Village.  I’m talking about cooking in my parents’ home.

Yes, it is that time of the year when I find my way back to Northern California and nestle in to my parents’ cozy home.  Besides waking up past 10, seeing my family, and playing with my dogs, there is nothing I like more than whipping up a nice warm meal in their kitchen.

I’ve got plenty of time, plenty of space, and a plethora of cookware to choose from.  I can throw on some good music, let my ingredients fulfill their side of the flavor bargain, and really cook with love.  After I’m done, I get to enjoy not only my food, but the conversation and interaction with family.  It is a whole package that comes nicely tied with a bow of love.

Be careful when cooking with this kind of love, it may lead to other things

Real sappy, right? Well I’d certainly take my home kitchen over the likes of the nicest restaurant dungeon any day of the year.  After spending only a few years in a professional kitchen, I quickly understood my passion for cooking did not extend into the restaurant business.

Cooking in a restaurant shouldn’t be called cooking.  It has all the elements of the action, but it lacks the most important part: pleasure.  When I signed up to to become a chef, I thought I was going to get paid to do what I loved.  I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Cooking professionally was repetitive, aimlessly stressful, and surrounded by drugs and alcohol.

After just two years, I am convinced the restaurant industry does more harm than good.  Not only are the employees unnecessarily stressed out, but the food they’re selling to the public is tainted with all the aggression, stress, and anger brewed up in the kitchen.

If you have been following my blog, you’ll know I am a huge proponent of intentional food practices. Everything from growing food to digesting it is affected by the hands and people who are associated with it.  I believe that food, like everything else, is in constant communication with its surroundings.

That said, eating meals made in restaurant kitchens is risky business.  Vibrations of anger, frustration, haste, and pure stress are the only energies that are created in the professional kitchen.  Ask anyone who cooks.  Either they love the pressure or hate it, either way they’ll tell you the pressure is there.  And that pressure causes problems, but where does it come from?

Can’t wait to eat here

For some reason when people go out to eat, they choose to transform into little prima donnas, ready to strike at the slightest epicurean offense.  I’ve seen customers make waiters cry.  It’s as if the restaurant is the one place people can take out their frustrations on other people without it being socially unacceptable.  It is no wonder the kitchen is under such stress.  Yet this cycle of demand and supply is a vicious one that repetitively honors negativity, for the customer enjoying his meal is consuming the stress and negativity of the cooks.  Most do not recognize it, but there are others that do.

In my old yoga studio in Los Angeles, there is a cafe called Nite Moon Cafe.  A close friend of mine is the head chef and she is the embodiment of motherly love.  Everything she does in the kitchen is solely to give to others.  She has a great following and an awesome menu.  I often joke that her prices are high, but in reality, the food you’re getting from this place is worth twice as much.  However, there was a time when this wasn’t so.

After growing in size, my friend Wah, needed to find another chef, one capable of the tasks at hand.  She hired a qualified guy who knew what he was doing.  He executed everything excellently and had the cafe running smoothly, except that people were beginning to complain about the food.  It had lost something.

Well Wah, went in to investigate and told me that what she noticed was her chef had all the culinary skills, but lacked the knowledge of how to cook for people.  He knew how to cook, but didn’t understand the reason for feeding others was to give to them.  He was going through the motions, but not giving it any intention.  In fact, the intention he was putting into the food was more like those found in a regular kitchen.

No witty quote here, just love this photo.

Point of the story is, cooking with love and cooking with negativity are two entirely different activities.  One fosters life, while the other suppresses it.  It is hard to find places that can cook in accordance with positivity,  but it is never hard to cook a meal of love at home.  And this holiday season, one thing that I am grateful for is being able to cook with love for my family.