This Thanksgiving, stop and consider your kitchen. It is a place of enjoyment or anxiety? Warm smells and pleasant energy or a droning microwave and a swirl of commotion? Nourishment or Necessary Evil? Kitchen Zen or Kitchen Chaos?
I have this sneaky fear that while Americans have built kitchens bigger and more luxurious than ever (complete with six-burner Wolff Ranges and modern refrigerators that store enough food for a month), kitchens are less what they were designed to be: A place where the whole family is nourished in body and soul.
As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his wonderful book How To Eat:
Every minute can be a holy, sacred minute. Where do you seek the spiritual? You seek the spiritual in every ordinary thing that you do every day. Sweeping the floor, watering the vegetables, and washing the dishes become holy and sacred if mindfulness is there. With mindfulness and concentration, everything becomes spiritual.”
Let’s take back your kitchen.
Make it your happy place.
Make it Kitchen Zen.
Forget the fancy gadgets and expensive cutlery. You don’t need any of that! Let’s dig into what you do need:
What do you need for Kitchen Zen?
Here are 5 essentials you need in the kitchen:
- A Sense of Humor: The point here is not to be Julia Childs. We’re not in the kitchen to prove ourselves ready for the Food Network. And I sure hope you’re not trying to be Gordon Ramsay. Smile. Create. Enjoy. Burn the food once in a while because you’re distracted with good conversation. A sense of humor goes a long way to sending off the positive vibe that draws your family to the kitchen as much as the great smells when your dinner creation turns out perfect.
- A good cookbook. Yes, you can find a thousand awesome recipes on the internet but there’s nothing like an old-fashioned cookbook. My two favorites are How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and the Moosewood Book of Desserts. Mark Bittman is famous for having the smallest kitchen known to man (he lives in New York City). I met Mark Bittman at the Books for a Better Life Award ceremony. He’s an incredible cook, an amazing writer, and a grumpy-in-a-good-way inspirer of all things food. He’s got other great books, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but How to Cook Everything is my favorite.
- A lemon reamer. Best invention ever. I got mine free with a bottle of booze that I was buying as a gift. You shove the lemon reamer into a cut lemon and get freshly squeezed lemon juice. I like to drink lemon water in the morning, recommended by Dr. Dale Bresden, author of The End of Alzheimer’s. And I also add lemon juice to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and stir frys.
- One sharp knife. One great chef’s knife can help remove and declutter so many things you don’t really need in your kitchen, like 14 different knives all tossed into a drawer or a food processor that sits on the counter and makes a noisy intrusion into your kitchen Zen dinner preparation experience. A good chef’s knife also helps you slow down and experience the moment.
- Your kids. A lot of people who enjoy cooking don’t like to have their kids in the kitchen. I say it’s never too early to inspire a love of food in your littles. Little hands can actually help you. Buy a pair of culinary shears and put your kids to work. (See this article for more information.) They’re also good company. And they will benefit from watching you cook. When you’re old and gray they’ll be inviting you over and cooking for you.
What you don’t need for Kitchen Zen
Now let’s take a minute and talk about 3 things you don’t need in your kitchen:
- Toss the Tylenol—This ubiquitous product is terribly harmful. Who wants poison in their kitchen?
- Purge the plastic—We’re starting to understand the damage plastic is causing to our planet, and to ourselves, in even minuscule amounts
- Shed the sugar—That little white powder that tastes so good but is sooo bad for you needs to go. You’ll actually feel more energy and fewer aches and pains (because your body will be less inflamed) when you stop eating sugar.
BONUS: the 6th thing you need in the kitchen
The cookbook I wrote with Dr. Paul Thomas, M.D.! We compiled simple, healthy, super easy-to-follow recipes that will de-stress your cooking experience, foster your Kitchen Zen, and also help inspire you to create recipes of your own.
Even if you’re not in recovery, you’ll love these meals.
I’m thankful for you, my readers. You encourage me, inspire me, share ideas with me, and help my science-forward approach to life reach more people every day. So just in time for Thanksgiving, I want to say thank you by giving the beautiful companion e-cookbook to our book The Addiction Spectrum: A Compassionate, Holistic Approach to Recovery to you for FREE.
Just click here for your free copy. If you use it, please share with me how you liked it.
Thanksgiving is here. Forget the indulgence and chaos and instead make it a holiday of cheer, love, and Kitchen Zen.
I leave you with a final thought, from Thich Nhat Hanh:
When you prepare a meal with artful awareness, it’s delicious and healthy. You have put your mindfulness, love, and care into the meal, then people will be eating your love.”