The Lost Art of Grateful Cooking

I guess your first response is “I understand the lost art of cooking, but what do you mean by grateful cooking?”

Yes, we seem to have lost the art of cooking, but we have also lost the art of gratefulness. We think about what will “make us happy”, or stimulate our tastebuds, or complete our “macros”; but who considers the ingredients, how they came to their kitchen and considers the workers involved in bringing this food to us?

“Who has time for that?”

We all have 24 hours in a day, and what we choose to fill that time with; what activities we choose, also the things we consider important, affect our days. We all, honestly, have time for it.

Consider the thought that goes into driving through your favorite fast food place, and what has gone into that food to “nourish” your body, or not. Were the ingredients brought about by people and animals that enjoyed their lives and enjoyed their work? How were the animals treated that provides the meat for that meal?

Crazy, right?

Here is another question, what country did those ingredients even come from?

Have you ever walked into one of those huge warehouse shopping places and asked yourself under what conditions people made all those items? If you want the answer to that question, check out the Netflix video The True Cost. Maybe you don’t want to know.

Do you want to know where your food came from? Buying clothing that has been made cheap by allowing others to live in terrible condition, to the point of child slavery, and turning a blind eye, is one thing. How much more is the effect of eating food that comes from animals and people in poor conditions? That food is assimilated into your body and becomes your cells. It becomes the substance which nourishes your cells, or not. If the animal or plant isn’t healthy, how can it nourish your own cells?

I know this is a big idea for a short article, and I am just trying to introduce you to the idea that where your food comes from is a big deal. I’m just trying to get you to think about who brought your food to you, what were their conditions, how far it had to travel, and at what cost. How much did it cost (someone) to bring in food from China, because it is cheaper than growing it in the US? How does that even happen?

Sometimes making choices is difficult, but sometimes it is fairly easy; someone else has done the work for you. For example, chocolate is an industry full of slave labor, but by finding “Fair Trade” chocolate, you have spoken with your dollars.

I have often said it is ideal if you can actually meet the farmer who raised your vegetables, meat, and grain. That sounds great during the summer months, when we can go to Farmer’s Markets, or order from a CSA, and we know the foods brought to us were a benefit to the farmer, and grown locally; with very little transportation. How about the winter, when we have to order our produce from South America and China? Here is a thought, try avoiding those foods for the winter. I’m not saying you can’t eat your favorite salad in January, but really, does a salad actually sound good in January? Make it every once in a while for a treat, but not every day. Look for those things in season in the environment you live in. Doesn’t a pot of beans, or soup or stew sound warming and filling? Then in the spring, when those fresh greens are popping out of the ground, those salads will be a welcomed change to both your mouth and your body. Your body is meant to eat with the seasons, why not take advantage of that?

I have an “app” on my phone (ILAB) that tells me where different products come from that have child labor, forced labor and forced child labor. For example, coffee has child labor in 16 different countries. Again, if I buy Fair Trade coffee, I can have at least a hope that those coffee beans were brought to me by families who have been treated with more respect and with fairer labor standards.

Sometimes it is just a matter of knowing which country your produce comes from. Blueberries grow in Maine, so I can make sure I get them from the US, and avoid the ones from Argentina that are brought to us with child labor. Yes, that entails reading the bag or the carton the store carried them in with.

Gratitude is also shown by how much we buy and consume. Just like the overflowing closet I had before I donated many of my clothes that didn’t fit or I didn’t wear, (another issue for another discussion); I look into my pantry, freezer and refrigerator and see a glut of food that isn’t necessary, or has lain idle because we needed only a small amount once. What do I do with it?

I pull out Masa Harina (cornmeal of sorts), with very little gone from the bag, and wonder why in the world we even bought it. I find I need to shift my attitude from “do I really need this?” to “I have it, people worked to get it to me, so what do I use it for?” It looks like I will be experimenting for a while. In the meantime, I will think harder about the things I bring into my pantry.

My other family members aren’t on board with this concept, so things will show up, such as chips and cookies, but I will try to let them disappear without my help. Just so you know, you aren’t alone in these challenges. I fail far more often than I care to admit, and I will help both the chips and cookies disappear, which doesn’t help my longterm plan. It’s a process, and failure doesn’t mean give up, it means keep the long term goal in mind. In fact, being aware of the issues is an important step in improving our own health, and the health of others.

Gratitude is an important ingredient in my cooking, and I hope you are thinking of ways you can add a bit to yours. Let me know what you think by posting your comments below. And if this has caused you to consider this issue, feel free to share it with your friends.

To your health,

Patti Bealer