By: Jessica Lehmann
This week we’ve all been getting ready to give a lot of thanks. On thanksgiving day, I, along with so many others will carefully measure out ingredients, chop, slice and stir with love and care, not to mention make a final dash to the grocery store for an extra onion or some forgotten cranberries, before laying the table beautifully and welcoming people through the door. We will take the time to greet people, to speak to one another, and to enjoy each other’s company. And we’ll do all of this to show just how grateful we are for everything we have in the world.
Somehow, giving thanks at this time of the year comes naturally to us all. We take time to actively identify what is good in our lives, and we look to honor one another by mindfully preparing wonderful food that we sit and take time to enjoy. We put our phones away as we eat, and we linger on at the table long after we’ve finished for the pure delight of it.
Ah. What a thing it would be if we could celebrate thanksgiving every week, I thought to myself the other day… And then another thought followed. Why is it so easy to give thanks only when the outpouring of that love and affection is directed at others rather than ourselves? There are multiple studies and articles that show how beneficial being #thankful can be. They often recommend keeping a gratitude diary, or trying to express your thanks to others on a daily basis. Both of these things are doable, and could easily become habitual if we make a point of doing them every day for a couple of weeks. But to me, there’s something special about the kind of thanks that we give when we cook. That time we spend putting together the right flavors, the beautiful action of stirring a pot, the physical act of placing food on the table to nourish from within.
Despite this, we only have to look at the success of companies such as Seamless and GrubHub, and the number of people queuing up for coffee and bagels every morning, to know that cooking for ourselves is somehow looked down upon, or seen as an irritating chore that brings no great returns. My outtake? It makes us uncomfortable to show the same kindness and respect to ourselves, that we will readily show to many others. It’s confronting. We feel we don’t deserve to take that time, we can’t find thank or reward ourselves for any kindness that focused inward.
Being someone who can forget the small things that I should be thankful for (the blue sky, the warmer weather, breathing and walking), the one thing that I make a point of doing daily is cooking. Having lived in a few different countries since leaving my homeland (the UK), it’s perhaps the one constant that I have kept in my life. Wherever I am in the world, I will always know how to make - and can almost always find the ingredients for - a wonderful miso soup, or a delicious braised red cabbage and quinoa salad. Even for cakes and muffins - which have often been baked in small toaster ovens, when a proper stove was not available.
This, I realized, is my own way of showing love to myself. It’s the most simple, most practical thing I know how to do, and yet, it’s the most grounding and the most nourishing. Anything from a tough day at work, to a seasonal slump in mood to a lack of energy can be fixed by spending time in the kitchen. To me, pots and pans feel like old friends, and the ritual of soaking grains and bringing lunch to work every day is my way of saying to myself ‘you’re worth this time, you’re worth this effort’. No matter what else is going on in my life, I will always find a way of making my lunch, sealing it in a container and carrying it carefully on the subway so that when I sit down to eat that day I’m eating what I want to eat, and not what wholefoods, or Chipotle dictate to me that I should.
I know, I know… it may feel like a long-shot for many of us. ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I don’t like cooking for myself’, ‘ingredients are expensive’… But since when are WE, the no. 1 person we need to take care of, not worth the time, money and effort? Since when is it not important to give thanks to ourselves on a daily basis, and make sure that we are showing ourselves love and care? It strikes me that it’s gratitude and thanks, not only charity, that should really start at home!
And, truth be told, once you start making habit of giving thanks to yourself in this way - you’ll have other things to be thankful for:
· Your bank balance WILL look more healthy - it’s an illusion that it’s cheaper to order in if you plan carefully and cook efficiently (more on that later)
· Your waistline will be slimmer - when we cook for ourselves, we’re more mindful about the quality of the ingredients we choose, the quantity of oils, salt and sweeteners we include, and our portion sizes
· Your skin and general health will improve no end - you’re more likely to incorporate a wider range of macronutrients into your diet when you’re experimenting a bit in the kitchen, not to mention you'll become more interested in how food can act as medicine for many of the aches, pains and grumbles we have in our ever day lives.
If you already make your own breakfast at home, I encourage you to try making your lunch and bringing it to work a couple of days a week. See how it feels to eat something you’ve prepared with love at lunchtime. Does it mean you’re more likely to eat away from your desk? Does it make your afternoon more bearable? Or perhaps it means your energy is more stable, spurring you to hit the gym rather than heading straight home after work?
If you tend to eat out a lot in the evening, choose one night a week to start cooking for yourself.
Inviting friends round can be great, but see how it feels to spend that time focusing on what you need. To getting quiet and calm in the kitchen, and then congratulating and giving thanks to yourself when you sit down to eat on your own. Sometimes, we need to be our own cheerleaders too! And nothing feels better than looking at the brightly colored plate of food that you’ve just put together yourself. If you’re cooking for your partner, take a moment to be thankful for the opportunity to eat delicious home cooked food together before you eat. Or maybe even cook as a pair?
There will always be excuses and resistance, especially when we live in a land where convenience rules. If you can take a moment to remind yourself of why you are worth this – why you want to nourish your body, and why it is an important act of self love to do so, it will change your entire experience of cooking and eating, I promise.
The final piece of good news is that there are a few tried and tested tricks of the trade that you can use to get yourself set up with a great cooking routine. I’ll be sharing these next week for you, but in the meantime, enjoy the holiday - show gratitude and give thanks for everything that is good in your lives, including your self!