In our society, relationships with food are complicated. Sometimes we might be anxious that our food is not safe, that we are not told the whole story, that we have to educate ourselves on what we can and guess the rest. Sometimes there are emotions connected with food such as ecstasy, joy, guilt, remorse, anxiety, or disgust. Sometimes thinking about food can be stressful, that we don’t have enough money to feed ourselves and others in the ways we would like or at all. Other times, we might wish food away because it is boring or we have limited skills or vision. I cannot say that my relationship with food is the healthiest. I have used food as a punishment and way to self-harm, I’ve been restrictive with food or scared of certain foods. I’m a little or a lot OCD and neurotic with how I handle food.
Ultimately, though, I love good food, and I rather enjoy cooking, especially when I have time to myself and am alone in the kitchen. There is something soothing in cleaning the preparation space and items, chopping the vegetables, combining the green, orange, purple together, letting my intuition guide me for spices. I know that food can be a ritual. It is a time where I listen to the water spill from the spout, the crackle of garlic in oils, the silence in the gaps where I pause before completing another step. Sometimes I go renegade, experimental or familiar, and other times the recipe is liturgy as it requires my faith to be guided by another’s wisdom.
During this phase of my life where I’m back living at home with my parents and applying for full-time teaching jobs, I’m taking things slowly and trying to appreciate the simple things. I feel it is best for my mental health and well-being to focus on family, food, getting sunshine and some physical activity, tending to my students I teach online, and hope for the future that I’ll have a place in some department in the Fall with all the applications I’ve blessed and sent out into the universe.
Why do I call the healing nature of food feminine energy? Food can be communal or private, and it can inspire and heal. In many families, the woman is the sacred sustainer for her family. This role has often been oppressive for women who have a full-time job outside or inside the home, take care of kids, and put food on the table. I have been in situations where I was expected to cook and felt like a housewife and did not like it. But now, my role is back to daughter, one who has the time and the space to cook, and I’m not obligated to cook for others (obviously, some daughters might have different expectations or experiences). When I cook for others, they appreciate it.
It’s also feminine because of my continued chronic conditions of my own body. I have PCOS, and recently I’ve found some supplements, teas, and essential oils that I think will help. I’ve never really tried to cure it before, but with the semi-chronic condition I experienced when I was in Spain that sort of manifested in a slightly different way when I came back to the states, I felt it was worth focusing on these areas of my body that seem to be asking for a bit of self-care. I feel sort of like a kitchen witch mixing the concoction in my kitchen each morning into a smoothie, boiling water for my Healthy Cycle or Pau d’Arco tea, making the ACV rinse that I apply topically, and then sitting in the sun outside, in my makeshift breakfast nook, alone, to journal.
I like that there are sometimes ways we can nurture ourselves, and food can be one of them. We can also feel nurtured by others when we let them bring us a tea or get-well casserole. I get a great sense of goddess nurturing from a website that I have recently found that has recipes that are healthy and actually work (at least for me). It felt redemptive when I tried some of the author’s recipes and they were successful. I will share my version of the comforting vegetable soup from this site, Hummusapien in case you might want to treat yourself with self love and you like and are able to make and eat this soup.
- Stir-fry garlic and onions in coconut (or other) oil.
- Peel and chop a potato while #1 is cooking and add when finished with some salt. I also add butter at this point.
- Peel and slice a few carrots and add to the stir-fry.
- Rinse and cut up a few stalks of celery and add to the stir-fry.
- At this point, I add in spices: oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme.
In another pot (whilst stir-fry is still simmering):
Pour a jar of tomato sauce and a can of chickpeas or kidney beans.
- Add the veggies.
- Add a box of vegetable broth and a bay leaf.
- Cover and cook for 25 minutes or so.
I sort of make this in steps, letting the veggies that need longer to cook do their thing while I prepare the next veggie. It might be a weird way to do it, but it keeps me from “watching the pot.”
I would love to know your own complicated relationship with food, the troubles and the joys, how you are approaching food currently or how you might want to. What kind of energies do you feel or are invoking? Or does cooking drain your energy, and if so, what do you do about that?
Lache S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches online composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a chapbook of poetry and traveling through Iceland, Spain, and Ireland.