May 31st, 2013 11:35 EST
Food & Spirituality: A Great Combination
What exactly IS spirituality? No particular source definitively explains spirituality and there is a reason. At the onset, your sense of enlightenment, peacefulness and serenity is much different than mine would be. Many have embraced religion as their spirituality while others are comforted from life`s stresses through something as simple as taking a walk everyday. Some may dabble in art, religion or music to sooth the savage breast.
There is one consolation that is taking root the world over lately, and that is food. I am not talking about indulging to excess or binging, but the simple acts of either cooking or eating with loved ones and friends. Let me give you an example. When you were a child, what was your favorite food that was prepared by your mother or grandmother?
Now think of the last time that same meal or item was made for you as an adult. How did you feel as your memory was triggered while it was baking? Did your mind race back many years ago as a child as you were enjoying the taste of this food? Maybe a fleeting glimpse of that person dashed in front of your minds` eye as the corners of your mouth curled to a slight smile. Did your day`s tension or struggle take a breather even for a brief moment as you `remembered when`?
How you handle stress and life`s challenges can significantly alter your health and ultimately your life. Many years ago, I decided to stop worrying about the things I cannot change and focus on my spirituality. In other words, I felt totally renewed one night after a particularly anxiety-ridden day and I haven`t looked back. The meal that night was my childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. No store-bought concoction, but the same recipe my Dad made since I was old enough sit in the big boy chair. Made with the sharpest Cheddar cheese you can buy, cut directly of the wheel and baked with the crispiest topping of buttered, crushed crackers. It was a best seller at his restaurants and always anticipated at our home table.
Believe it or not, the simple act of seeing the cheese bubbling over the side of the baking pan was the beginning of my transformation, which has yet to wane. Seated at the table and enjoying the same meal with my children, as my parents did with me and my siblings, truly lowered my blood pressure and heart rate while at the same time slowing down those worrisome thoughts bouncing around in my mind.
THIS was the place I wanted to be! Totally relaxed and telling my children about the years of my youth as well as regaling the stories handed down by my father and grandfather not only helped me immediately but also offered me a chance to re-evaluate how I deal with inner struggles. And all this from something as simple as comfort food. Therein lies the connection between food and spirituality, comfort! It is obvious that memories and food has a spiritual connection by remembering this. We are the only species that continues to drink milk after being weaned from our mother. Why? Comfort!
Other connections are equally resolute. Firing up the grill in the good ol` outdoors finds its mark in spirituality as well. Curling up in the softest robe or pj`s you have, with a decadent dessert will enable you to take a respite and start anew. Many people around the world have become vegans or have given up certain food groups in order to find their inner peace. If that is their spirituality, great. Just know that inner peace has more than one face. Being able to control benevolent emotions that can cause physical harm rounds off this `face` of contentment. Well-being and personal development, to me, explains spirituality. I find that food and memories are the perfect catalyst for this improvement and that is my intent. To rest my mind is to maintain my body.
The Yankee Chef Jim Bailey is a third generation New England chef, respected food columnist, Yankee Food Historian and author. His first cookbook, The Yankee Chef Feel Good Food For Every Kitchen, is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Schiffer Books. The foremost historian of New England Food, he has been touted as the comfort food guru, while maintaining the integrity of a Michelin-quality chef.
He is currently married with four minor children and resides in Maine, where he gives his time liberally to judging food venues and espousing breast cancer awareness, where his pink chef`s coat silently honors his mother.