Over the years I have suffered with depression and anxiety. I suppose I may have started cooking to help me focus on something else that wasn’t connected to my dark and nasty thoughts and feelings. When cooking I feel truly in the moment. I’m not thinking of the past or worrying about the future. My whole attention is focused on bringing a list of beautiful ingredients together and creating something that I – and others – can enjoy.
If you suffer with depression, anxiety, sadness, anger or any other negative emotions I do urge you to find an outlet that helps you think about something else whilst creating something that is beautiful and yours at the same time. If it’s not cooking, it could be gardening, photography, painting etc. Hobbies such as these really do help when those dark clouds descend and take over your body.
Whilst reading The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindle Segal and Jon Kabat-Zin, I came across a lovely couple of paragraphs about being mindful when eating. I’ve extracted it in full here:
“A well-known travel writer was invited to dine at the home of a wealthy Japanese family. His host had invited a number of guests, letting it be known that he had something of great importance to share. Part of the meal would consist of blowfish, considered a superb delicacy in Japan, in part because these fish are fatally poisonous unless the poison has been removed by a highly skilled chef. To be served such a fish was a great honour.
As guest of honour, the writer received the fish with great anticipation and savoured every mouthful. The taste was, indeed, like nothing he had ever eaten. What, asked his host, did he think of the experience? The guest was ecstatic about the exquisite flavour of the fish he had sampled. He did not have to exaggerate, for it was indeed sublime, among the best fish he had ever tasted. Only then did his host reveal that the fish he had eaten was a common variety. Another guest, without realising it, had eaten the blowfish. The ‘important thing’ the writer learned was not how good a rare and expensive delicacy tasted but how amazing ordinary food could be if he paid close attention to each mouthful.”
What this story shows is that if we are truly mindful and concentrate on the food in front of us, even eating a piece of fish – such as the common cod loin – can turn into a truly exquisite meal experience. In fact when you think about a piece of cod – and I mean really think about it – cod is beautiful! Its bright whitish colour as you look at it; it’s chunkiness as you handle it; the fresh fishy smell as you cook it and finally the crisp clean bite as you eat it with your favourite vegetables; sauce or salad. It can be a sublime experience! And this is why I do go on about really staying present when eating. In this way, you don’t eat as much as you will eat more slowly and therefore feel fuller sooner and you will taste what is in front of you instead of bolting down your food and not really tasting it.
Being mindful means switching off our automatic way of living for a while, and in terms of food, our ‘automatic’ way of eating. It means not eating at the dining table while worrying about the past and what might have been, or ruminating about what someone said and what you could have said in return, or making plans and worrying about the future. It’s about taking in the present moment, savouring what is, rather than what should have been or what will be.
Jon Kabit-Zin often talks about getting back to being a ‘human being’ rather than a ‘human doing.’ We are rarely’ human beings’ – we are mostly ‘human doings.” Filling up our days with doing this or that, or if not in terms of behaviour, we’re ‘doing’ with our mind. Reliving the past or fretting about the future. We are rarely savouring the moment. We are rarely ‘being’ in the present. Why don’t you try being a ‘human being” at the dining table. I can guarantee you will enjoy your food so much more!