Leading a bit of a nomadic life where we live in any one place for about a year or so at a time has its challenges. With the case of living in Idyllwild, I moved into an already established kitchen, so my own plates, glassware and other tools where kept packed away and I needed to make due with what was there as well as deal with a lengthy remodel. Now that I’m going to be living in Maui for the next few months, I find myself in another kitchen, with someone else’s tools, colors, organization and set up. Its challenging because a cooks kitchen is a sacred sanctuary, prepared in the exact manner the cook needs and wants to facilitate the best cooking experience possible; so moving from place to place can be a bit disruptive to say the least.
I’ve been in Maui now for a month and its taken me a bit to get settled into this kitchen that I have now. Learning its layout, adjusting myself to the lack of a certain tool, or the presence of another, like the grill in this case, and making it my own has taken time. Admittedly, sometimes the lack of familiarity has made me a bit reticent to use the kitchen. I’m not sure what that is about other then to say, I’m a home body at heart and although for this particular time in my life I am set on living in various places for extended periods of time, it just seems to take me a while to adjust to what is simply not my own.
For this reason, creating certain rituals have helped in building a sense of familiar space in a new kitchen. Cleaning it, rearranging the spices in such a way that helps bring those most used to an easy reach, filling in the pantry gaps with those items I use most and of course creating a kitchen altar.
Nothing elaborate, the kitchen altar I have set up here in my Maui kitchen is simple and visible. An anchor that keeps my mind exactly where I want it while preparing the food I will eat and serve to others. The minute I placed these items on the counter that sits above the sink and cutting board, the entire room shifted for me. Its a focal point that brings me back to the practice of mindfully preparing food, and settled any feeling I had that this room wasn’t mine.
Its a simple act and yet so potent. I have found that the times I have come into the kitchen in a rush to throw something together, with my thoughts flying, all that has to happen for me is to look at the altar and things stop. My mind stops, breath deepens and slows down, and I’m right back in the moment. Reminded and centered. Now… the part where the practice comes in, is that I find myself on some days, having to look up at that altar over and over again, while in the midst of all sorts of monkey brain activity. But you know, its a practice.
For me, keeping a mindful kitchen is about intention, healing, nourishment and the sensual celebration of the act of preparing and eating food. Depending on the day and the people I’m cooking for, the intention I weave into the dishes I’m making vary. Taking a moment to look up at this small altar, before beginning my kitchen tasks, affords me the moment to really get clear about what I’m about to create and why. Almost like a prayer.
“By honoring the sacredness of the kitchen in an intentional way, we cannot only create a sacred space in which to heal ourselves from the day’s concerns, but we can enhance our spiritual lives as well.” ~The Sacred Kitchen