Do you ever cook with the magic of intent? Have you ever wondered what it means when a person says, ” I cook with love,”? Does it mean there is a secret ingredient you don’t know about or a technique that is passed down by the generations?
Perhaps that isn’t entirely the answer.
I seldom see anyone cook with the fullest intent for the end result. The whole purpose of cooking is to eat and/or to serve others, but sometimes we forget that the best dishes must come from the heart and that entails that your focus is needed. However, that does not completely overpower the rules of temperature, timing, and the tested results of your average recipe.
What does cooking with Intent mean exactly?
I have noticed that when someone who cooks regularly they often will tweak recipes. Whether it be adding less of an ingredient, or an extra herb that enhances a certain taste there is always a purpose. To cook with intent is very much like creating anything with intent. What is your goal? What is the creation for? Where do the ingredients come from? What makes this recipe special? What is the occasion?
It occurred to me while I was at a bridal shower at a local winery, that the people can create the most simple things while still having a desire to make them special. The menu was rather bland looking until my eyes found the word “Rabbit”. The other menu items had a flourished name and a detailed description.
However, the one meal item that caught my eye was the simplest out of the short menu. So that is what I ended up trying for the first time, the Rabbit with red wine sauce and mushrooms. Now I have been told that rabbit is gamy, has very little to eat, or at its very best only tasted like chicken. I had not tried such an exquisite form of life in a dish before. To taste the passion infused within a dish like that creates an experience that is rarely ever successfully commercialized. As I am sure you may have gleaned, I had not had such an experience.
Now you might understand why a friend would never go for a dish in the supermarket that was made to cook in the oven for 20 minutes; when their grandmother makes a better, more full version with that special hand-made quality.
What would this mean to those who don’t cook? What if your parent’s never cooked for you, or were poor at it? It all comes down to the intent.
What do I mean by “Intent”?
To create something one must find the magic of creation and forget the mundane that so quickly eats up our lives in order to have ‘Time for everything”. When life builds upon our experiences I have noticed as the year’s progress it may be harder because of time constraints, less desire, or lack of money to cook at all. The intent is like anything you feel excitement for, such as a project, or a road trip. The energy you put towards an end result forms in your mind to create what you want.
How can I make my intent work for me?
There are many ways that people provide their intent. It could be that a person chooses to section off time only for the specific project, or in this case, recipe. This is an essential way to give your mind a time to think only of your end result and to plan.
Now, As a planner, I have definitely found that things don’t always come out the way I wanted. I have wondered many times to myself, why is this happening?
After much thought over the years I believe I have found that when a person imagines an end result, they are more distracted by the perfection attempted in the first try. As many have told me and I will say to you: Special things like talent and refined results take practice.
That is why it is a good idea to focus on your magical task at hand, rather than multitask and scare away the intent you wish to give your unique meal. This also includes never cutting corners!
All of us at some degree have read a recipe and thought, “Nah, I can make this go faster”. This is a great way to disturb the process of creating your dish. Now as I mentioned before, with many attempts to a recipe, if it is made exactly as it is described, it is entirely up to you if you want to change it. But with this comes risk if you choose to change anything about a dish that you have no experienced at its fullest original potential the way it is written.
I like to think of recipes just like DIY projects or the “creation process” is in itself a form of poetry or instructions if you will to your environment. Some may even say it is a spell created in the most mundane of tasks. The idea is to look at the task as a form of adventure, a re-awakening of the senses or better yet, and discovery of a new joys.
Here are a few examples of ways I instill my intent in my cooking:
- Make sure you have a clean space to work in. Nothing ruins a serene learning experience like working around dirty dishes or other objects that don’t belong in the kitchen.
- Review your recipe and create a list on a clean piece of paper of the ingredients you need. Bring a pen to mark off the items you find along the way.
- Where do you normally shop? Are you interested in trying a new shopping location? Farmer’s markets are wonderful places to build relationships with the local farmers that sell their crops. They may have a few suggestions to help with your dish! Keep an open mind so you can happily stumble on new ideas and new friends.
- Are you setting time away to shop for the things you need? Ample time is needed and even though it may be hard to find, it is important to not feel rushed by the time you have a the end of the day.
- Stay within your budget. It may be ok to splurge on a specific ingredient but be sure to look up alternatives to overly expensive ingredients you may have not thought about. Examples: Herbs like Saffron, Madagascar Vanilla, Cloves, or Cinnamon Sticks (The real kind) can be very costly. Living in the Southern California Area brings me many opportunities to try different spices from cheaper outlets. Be wary of the average spice being sold for multiple of what it is normally sold at the general grocery store. Also be sure to know what type of herbs keep well and which ones needs to be used more often. It’s never fun to find an herb with poor planning that is past it’s prime. I like to order my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs because they have a quality and price that is seldom ever paralleled at a physical establishment. I also like to go to farmer’s markets or garden the basic herbs I know I will use.
- When in doubt, use the freshest items you can. Now dried spices can be tricky but if you keep a garden, it has massively different taste results than the bottle you buy for more at the store.
- Pertaining to the above #6, Keep a little herb garden! Yes it takes time and patience, but to encourage those little plants to grow big and strong through proper watering, sunlight, and pep talk, this can really make any dish special!
- Set up your space for preparation separate from the space for cooking. This means, don’t overcrowd yourself. I have worked in some small kitchens and it is very possible if you organize your items so you can focus on what is important: Imagine your work creating a divine dish!
- Make sure you have the tools you need. Some recipes may have appropriate alternative to create your meal.
- Watch that dish! Don’t fall victim to a lengthy home call or an urge to multitask. The food needs you full attention in order to nourish you as well as your inner happiness. Mistakes happen quickly and can change the dish drastically. Keep your eyes on the intent, it will follow your desire as you practice.
- If I could give one last bit of advice, share your creations! You might find a wonderful discovery that you would like to tell your closest of friends. We grow through food as our defining focus in our communities. Share the knowledge and it will come back to you with many new seeds of creation.
Let us know in the comments below what helps you create food at home with intention and share you favorite recipes!