Cooking, like most other peak performance activities, requires your absolute attention. The Sacred Chef advises cooks and chefs everywhere to mentally prepare themselves before picking up a knife. There is nothing worse than a potentially dangerous weapon in the hands of a distracted exponent. Cooking really is a meditation, and real meditation is not about sitting around with your eyes closed, it is about being present in the here and now.
If you are not present when you are cooking, if you are thinking about something else, you most likely will cut yourself or burn yourself. Cooking involves the five elements of our world in a very real sense; there is fire and it burns; there is metal and it cuts; there is water and it can soothe but it can also burn; there is air and it cools and also increases heat; and finally there is the earth and all its produce. When you cook you are the magus, the alchemist at the centre of all these elements, shifting and transmuting them in the act of creation. But you must pay attention and be aware.
So before cooking take a few moments to focus, find your centre, get grounded and be in your body. Sure the process of cooking itself will soon take you there, but it can be painful as your senses inflict reminders on you to “be here now”. Often we are cooking to achieve a result – feed a family or friend; feed ourselves; and or fulfill a social requirement – this takes us into the future and again out of the moment. Remember, that although a powerful intention is helpful, do not lose yourself in the outcome before you get there.
Enthusiasm is a great boon to take into the cooking process as it puts you in touch with the energy of the Gods, that is what the word enthusiasm actually means – from its Greek linguistic origin, to be inspired by and in the presence of the Gods. Great cooking has always been fired by enthusiasm, it is afterall an ancient magical process, and I always say it is the only creativity that you literally ingest. Find your creative fire before you get into the kitchen, as it can be a dangerous place for the uninspired and unconscious.
You need energy to cook and it is the energy of giving. You are chopping, peeling, washing, stirring, lifting, witnessing, and wanting all in the act of giving. Giving nourishment, succour, beauty and love through the creation of a meal. To cook great food you need to be able to give. Great chef’s work incredibly hard in often trying circumstances for their Art. All this stuff in magazines and on TV about quick meals and just 4 ingredients is rubbish – when has taking shortcuts and rushing things ever really contributed to the truly worthwhile things in life?
Cooking is a joy, when you give yourself over to the process, it has a life of its own. When you do anything totally there is joy, when you disappear and the act itself remains you are in bliss. When the small you stops complaining about this and that, when your mind becomes witness to what you are doing without comment, then you are cooking with the Gods. You are working with beautiful produce, smelling the fresh aromas of each vegetable, herb and spice. Feeling the flesh and sensing the sacred qualities of what you are cooking with – you are transported back to another time, a slower time when eating was the most important thing we did every day if we could. When survival depended upon it and cooking and ingesting nourishment was sacred. This meal could very well be your last.
Salt is very important, it is not to be feared in the cooking process. Did you know that salt or sodium is the one thing that our body must have to survive but does not produce itself. It is our true link to this earth, this rock, this planet we live upon. Yes too much salt will kill us and we need to treat it with due respect but do not neglect it in your own cooking, rather refrain from eating processed foods that you buy in the supermarket and eat your own food. Take control of what you put in your body and become intimately acquainted with the ingredients that go into your diet. There are now a variety of quality salts available in the market and they have some mineral variations to consider – research salts. Good cooking needs salt.
Remember to stay hydrated whilst you are cooking as it is often very hot in the kitchen, leaning over open flames and opening oven doors. Not looking after your body can contribute to raised blood pressure and unnecessary tension in the kitchen. All this yelling and abuse you see on TV, supposedly representing what happens in commercial kitchens in restaurants, is not real it is reality TV world – fictitious. Sure occasionally chef’s get upset and vent but a well-functioning kitchen does not operate like that in the default position. In fact all this masterchef bullshit is just that – cooking is not a competition! Cooking is a service, it is a gift, it is about feeding the body and soul. Judging people and scoring who is the best is anathema to the true essence of cooking.