Lessons From My Kitchen…

For the past two years I have been a student at Antioch University earning my Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology. Yesterday I graduated. I figured I had to acknowledge this here because this blog was inspired by my experience in this program. Today I don’t have a recipe for you. Instead, I want to take a moment to share with you some of the lessons I have learned in my kitchen and in life.

Seasons change. I could write a paper for you about change, but I will spare you today. Instead, what I think is important to say here is that even though we may fear change and times of transition, our entire lives are about change. You see this in the world around you as the days slowly get longer, shorter, colder, warmer… as the different foods cross your plate with the various seasons… as beautiful people come into your life and some stay while others go.

What are you letting go of today? What are you letting in? On our last day of class we did a closing activity and each shared what we were letting go of and what we were letting in. I think this a wonderful question to ponder at any moment in your life, but on the eve of summer, I think it is especially important to say goodbye to our bittersweet, rainy spring and welcome the new season.

Trust the process. You have no way of knowing what lies ahead of you in your life. Life is all about the unexpected turns and moments that change our path forever. I believe that all we can do in the here and now is focus on the beauty there is around us and trust that we are all heading in the right direction: “Whatever you are meant to do, move toward it and it will come to you.” – Gloria Dunn

I have mentioned here before that I do not consider myself to be “a baker.” Baking, for me, is about measuring all the ingredients and then hoping, praying, and crossing my fingers that the cake is going to rise. Every time I bake, I have to trust the process. I have to trust that I did the best I could and believe that when I put the cake in the oven it is going to turn out fine. Most of the time, it’s a success. But, I have had my share of failed cakes. That’s life.

Recipes aren’t always right. There have been many times when I have followed a recipe completely only to find the end result rather disappointing. I have learned that the best cooking method, at least for me, is to look at recipes as needed, but trust my own instincts to modify them. You can’t rely on a book for everything. Cookbooks and recipes are amazing and helpful, but they can’t teach you how to make food. That comes from experience. I believe that the greatest lessons we learn come from our own lives, not books. And if you disagree with a recipe, change it.

Be present. Where is the fun in cooking if you aren’t fully present while eating the food? Any time I have ever injured myself in my kitchen, it is because I was not fully present. There are so many distractions today for all of us, but sometimes it is necessary to turn off the phone, the computer, and our internal chatter just to focus on the moment at hand. From my experience, food always tastes better when we slow down, take small bites, and just eat.

Use it or lose it. You cannot hold on to produce forever because it will eventually go bad. I don’t know about you, but I know there have been many times when I have wasted food that I love because I was waiting for the “right time” to use it or eat it. Wasted food is a bummer. And wasted opportunities? Big bummer. The lesson here is that there never is a “right time” to do something – there is just that moment. So, use up that favorite food you have been saving, take that vacation you have been putting off, or make that leap in your life that scares you. The time is now.

Food is about community. The best meals I have had are ones that I have shared with others. In our fast-paced world, we often forget about building community or taking the time to focus on our relationships with others. Food is a beautiful way to build community, whether that means designating Wednesdays as “family dinner night”, meeting your neighbors in a community kitchen, or volunteering at a local food bank. People need connection with others and good connections often happen over good food.

It’s just food. Have fun. And finally, cooking should be fun. Food is about enjoyment and pleasure. Don’t take it too seriously and remember that even the worst situations get better with a good sense of humor. :)

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