The Healing Kitchen

The kitchen as a place to heal our tattered hearts and overstuffed minds and practice the art of Presence.

The Healing Kitchen

I didn’t always know that the kitchen was a healing place. As a child, all I knew was that it felt good when I was there. The kitchen was where abundance was evident; where tantalizing aromas from steaming pots on the crowded cooktop drew me in and overflowing, colorful platters held any number of mouth-watering treats ready to satisfy my hunger in an instant. It didn’t matter what the outside world looked like or what it had done to me. The kitchen was neutral ground, a place of respite from life’s little annoyances, from scraped knees to aching hearts - a soothing balm that nourished me when I needed it most. 

We’ve all heard it said that it’s the journey, not the destination where the true prize waits. Now, as an adult and professional chef, I often wonder if we’ve lost some of the kitchen’s inherent magic by turning our focus on the finished dish rather than on the process of preparing it. 

Does the real soul of the kitchen evaporate when we approach cooking as a chore rather than a pleasure?

There are few things in life that offer a multitude of gifts as readily as the kitchen does. Good food is the most obvious, but it’s the more subtle contributions that most surprised me - becoming clear only after years of observation. I didn’t realize that as I was stirring a sauce, chopping an onion, kneading the dough, or performing any number of menial tasks that cooking demands, that I was really practicing an ancient meditation - Presence. Cooking, by its very nature, requires one’s full attention. Any deviation produces almost instant consequences – a burnt sauce, a cut finger, a forgotten ingredient, or any number of mishaps. 

Over the years, I began to recognize that cooking was a practice of presence my otherwise cluttered mind so desperately needed. 

When I cook, my mind is still, relaxed, focused only on the task before me – because it has to be. This is the true gift of the kitchen; comfort for a tattered spirit; a place to rest and empty an overstuffed mind; to relax into the pleasure of manual participation free from thought; a place that provides sustenance for my spirit, as well as my body. 

The idea that I could be training my mind in the art of meditation and presence, and still end up with something wonderful to eat just never ceases to amaze me! What could be more loving, more nourishing, more healing and generous than this? This is cooking as a form of spiritual practice – the Zen of the kitchen – a perfect blend of the practical with the profound, and the gift of both.