For me, cooking is a refuge. It is all about coming home, claiming my space, and being focused on one thing. Zooming into one activity rather than questioning life. Finding stillness and calm while doing something I truly enjoy. When cooking, there is always a flow, a goal, a journey towards a dish. There is a balance, an equilibrium, a harmony; a yin and a yang.
Sometimes we fry, sometimes we bake, sometimes we leave it all as it is and simply enjoy the raw perfection of what nature shares with us. We may eat in a social setting, or we may eat in solitude. We may invite someone over for dinner or be invited to someone else’s house. It is a giving and taking, a stirring and resting, a chopping and brushing. These opposing factors all work together, the hot and the cold, the sweet and the savoury, the sour and bitter, the new and the old. Tradition and innovation. A new dish may remind us of something familiar, something like home. Likewise, an old dish can inspire us to create something new by giving the old a new chance to surprise us. Changing its colour and flavour and texture but keeping its core.
Sometimes we may have more capacity to try a new, demanding dish. To throw ourselves out of our comfort zone. To dare that something may go wrong because we are foreign to the terrain. Other times we seek comfort in what we already know, something to hang onto, something that is not challenging our skills or our knowledge about food.
Cooking can be very grounding, it connects us with the elements earth, water, fire and air. The earth provides us with nourishing foods that contain vitamins and minerals, we use water to wash our produce clean, we evolved to cook with fire and learned to dry foods to conserve them. All of our senses are part of it, too. We hear the sizzling fat in the pan or the hollow sound of a coconut, we touch fruits and veggies to feel their level of ripeness, we look at fresh produce to check whether the skins are intact, we smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and cinnamon on our morning porridge and we taste the combination sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami in anything we eat.
These opposing sides are always there, like a push and a pull, two tides that compliment each other. Maybe set yourself this task today: when you prepare a meal, when you chop fresh herbs, bite into a juicy piece of fruit or chew a crunchy nut, notice this push and pull, this sweet and savoury, this sour and bitter, the yin and yang. Look at that apple and notice all its features, notice how both yin and yang are present.
All things carry yin and embrace yang. They reach harmony by blending with the vital breath. – Laozi