I don't often use this forum to talk specifically about food, but the truth is, food is a HUGE part of who I am. I grew up in a small town in the country side of Vermont where during the fall I could walk across the dirt road in front of my home and eat as many apples as I desired. The eggs and milk my family enjoyed were produced about a mile down that same road. I was under the wonderful illusion that food was plentiful and always available close to home. We had none of the fast food chains within an hour’s drive, so there was never the lure that so many of us face during our daily commutes. My family now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where we do our best to be sustainably minded with what we buy and how we celebrate our earth’s bounty. With snow on the ground about 5 months out of the year, this isn’t always easy. This is where I believe the blend of sustainable cuisine merges with conscious cuisine.
During the 1970’s and ever since, Alice Water, heralded chef and founder of the Berkeley, California restaurant “Chez Panisse,” has used “green” practices and enlisted local farmers produce and artisanal cheeses in her celebrated cuisine. At the same time across the United States, giant “agribusinesses” were putting small farms out of business. With that came more processed foods and an increase in lifestyle-related (preventable) diseases like diabetes. Thankfully the idea and practice of sustainable cuisine is growing across the globe. Eating sustainably (and thus mindfully) is not about giving up your favorite food, per se, be it the fish from across the globe or fruits and veggies that aren’t in season anywhere close to home. Rather, it’s all about what you are getting and growing in return, which is conscious cuisine.
The average meal travels over 2,500 miles to make it to your table. If everyone in the United States ate just one meal per week made with local ingredients, we would save our country over a million barrels of oil every week. This brings a sobering meaning to going out for dinner and a call to come back closer to home. Eating consciously is a wonderful way to support your health and well being and at the same time benefit the planet by decreasing your carbon “footprint,” i.e., how far your food has to travel before it ends up on your plate. For starters, you can be a supporter of small family farms by choosing to eat local whenever possible, which can help to offset our unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, and also buy purchasing products that were made by independent farmers. This fall, see how you can be using your consciousness to expand the good by sourcing your sustenance from your nearest farmers market. See how close you can eat to home and enjoy all the sustainable benefits. When we make choices that have a sustainable side to them we are able to experience the great good that comes with knowing that every time we eat we are moving our bodies and our planet in a more healthy direction.
Being a part of conscious cuisine encourages a healthy and spirited culture of connection. A lot of what may be missing in our “diets” today can be directly related to being devoid of a healthy dose of co-creating and community. Use the meal time opportunity to make the food preparation a ritual in itself by bringing in music and turn off the TV. Break out into uncharted territory with new recipes. See how close you can eat to home with enjoying at least one course from a local grower. Make a bold move and inspire or insist that you eat meals together as family as often as possible. Embrace the kitchen as a means to bring forward and foster both health and healing. When families come together to share a meal the blessings are many and all empowering. Research suggests that the more meals we share together with our children, the less likely they will experience depression, drug or alcohol abuse as well as coming together over food with family decreases the risk for suicide. The dinner table can be a place where families can do their best work in building trust, resilience and love for oneself and each other.
The speed of life, the speed at which we eat and run from one thing to the next is leaving us unsatisfied and frankly, unhealthy. Where to and why are we always running? It’s obviously not for the exercise. Choose to allow meal time to be a respite; a time to unplug, a time to engage at a most delicious level of experience and to connect with the Source of your food. Begin where you are today and see the opportunity to bring about a conscious shift with your eating choices.