The Kitchen Dance

By Kimberly Cook-Fallon

Breakfast, 1953, by Pablo Picasso, courtesy of Wiki Art

Cooking is a carefully choreographed ballet about life and survival.  An ongoing drama that tests our ability to cope with challenges, from burns to bad recipes, while allowing us to embrace all that is nourishing and good.  In my more than forty years as a cook, I’ve learned that the kitchen can be both a source of chaos and of mindfulness.  Here’s how to dance between the two.    

CHAOS

There will be chaos. You will forget to preheat the oven.  Eggs will hit the floor.  You will scorch the sauce, forget to serve the corn that you left on the back burner, run out of a key ingredient, and neglect to set the timer.

You will ruin meals when the nasty salt shaker dumps a full load into the stew out of spite.

A tiny speck of mold will invade your kitchen and take over everything.

Your cheese will blossom into fuzz-balls. Leftovers will become disgusting science experiments in the back of the fridge.  

The power will go out without warning.

You will burn nuts, croutons, and bacon, setting off the smoke alarm.

It is likely you will start a grease fire in a frying pan. So keep an open box of baking soda handy at all times.

The phone will ring. Someone will pound on the front door.  Your kids will let out blood-curdling screams at a crucial point in the recipe.

The family dog will abscond with the resting tri-tip roast you made for Sunday dinner, and worse, you won’t notice until it’s been consumed.

You’ll cheerfully start making cookies then halfway through the recipe, spy the dreaded instruction, “Refrigerate the dough for 12 hours, preferably overnight.”

You will break glass, spill things, lose a lid, misplace your favorite knife.

Drawers will jam. You will cut yourself, burn your hand, slam your fingers in a drawer.

There will be disappointments.  After lovingly preparing a meal,  you’ll find out that the kids already ate at the neighbors’ or your partner gorged on pizza after work.  

MINDFULNESS

There will be flow. Some days you are in the groove, and everything comes together.  But this doesn’t have to be a matter of grace or chance.  You can actually set the stage for this kind of serendipity.  

Practicing good form makes everything you do in your kitchen easier.   

When cooking,  remind yourself to stand up straight, loosen your grip on the knife handle, and get in the groove. 

Pay attention to your body. Remind yourself to breathe, drop your shoulders, and relax your neck.  Think of this as kitchen yoga.

Claim your domain! Feng Shui your counters for both efficiency and comfort.  

The “work” in a kitchen involves chopping, stirring, peeling, prepping, filling pots and pans, serving meals, washing dishes, cleaning up, and putting things away.  It pays to be well organized.  Then mindfulness is easier to achieve.

Let your other senses come alive.  Notice the aromas that fill your house as you are cooking.  

Feast your eyes. Marvel at the architecture and color of produce—the simple geometry of a purple cabbage or of thin-sliced red onions.

Tune into your favorite songs. Music can ease you into a state of well-being, and make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable.

Don’t rush. Allow yourself to be in the moment, and remember to take life one spoonful at a time. That way cooking can fuel your connection with the universe and become your gateway to the divine.

Kimberly Cook-Fallon has a Masters of Science in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis.  She and her husband raised two daughters in the Sonoma wine country.  Cooking and vegetable gardening have been her passions since childhood.  This article was written for Tell Your Story of Home, a collaboration of Reinventing Home and  Leap, an intimate platform for online learning.

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