I’m not a professional chef.
I guess you could say that I like pretending to be one. Not because I feel that I could compete with the great culinary masters that inspire amateurs like me, but because I like what happens to me when I cook. It’s hard to explain it unless you’ve experienced this for yourself. After all, life experiences are so incredibly personal and unique that I doubt they could truly be explained.
But, let me give it a try.
Cooking, for me, is more than just assembling ingredients together. It’s much deeper than that. It is an opportunity to slow down; step out of the craziness of day-to-day life; immerse myself under my own skin; and go to a place that brings me incredible peace and fulfillment. Yeah, cooking does that for me.
No. I'm not crazy.
I'm just beginning to realize that the cooking experience and the sharing of a meal have some unique qualities, at least for me, that is very fulfilling. Why is it that some of the fondest memories that I can remember revolve around a meal? I can easily recount dozens of those memories. I can tell you what I cooked; who I shared the meal with; what it tasted like; what it smelled like; and in many cases, what the table setting looked like. I can picture the scenes in my mind, like a good old movie that you never forget.
That's when it hit me! Cooking is what slows me down enough to enjoy life more.
So what do I do now with this newfound wisdom? Am I supposed to go and suck the marrow out of life? Sit by a tree and wait for an apple to fall on my head? Look for a burning bush? No. Instead, I did the only reasonable thing one could do. I made myself a Crown Royal© Manhattan straight-up and sat down to ponder the mysteries of life. But here's the kicker. After all that pondering, I reached the conclusion that there is no mystery. There is no huge enlightenment. There is no big mountain to climb -- no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I think the answer is found in doing less, not more. Just living in the moment. That's it. That's all I got.
So... I decided I'm getting off the conveyor belt.
No more rushing to accomplish the never-ending to-do list, or moving aimlessly from one point to another. No more living life in the future or in the past. Instead, I'm going to live life more meaningfully. And I'm going to do that in the kitchen. Why? Because I really like food. I love eating it; I love cooking it; I love talking about it; I love reading about it; I just love food. And I'm not the only one! I know this because something kind of surreal happens when you bring people together around great food. During a good meal, and I mean a good meal, everyone gets off the conveyor belt. No cell phones; no distractions; no rushing. And then… boom… life happens. The real life; not everything else we had to do in order to get to that moment.
Call it an epiphany-like moment; a stop-in-your-tracks-and-reanalyze-everything-you-think-you-knew-type moment.
It took me almost 50 years to figure all this out, but I sure am glad I got “here.” Hey – Thoreau went to the woods for this insight. I go to the kitchen. Yeah, a bit too metaphysical, I know, but… that's the awakening I find myself in.
So, what's the lesson here? Find what slows you down enough to enjoy life more. Put the phone down. Get off the conveyor belt. Stop the busyness. Make yourself a cocktail, and enjoy a good meal with good people.
- The Awakened Chef