My thoughts today revolve around a book I read some time ago and just picked up again today by Anne Scott entitled Serving Fire about rituals and rhythms of the hearth. Now, rituals and rhythms are both subjects near and dear to me, as is my kitchen, which I view as the hearth of our home and often the center of, not just our family, but a community life. In the space of our kitchens we create. Not only meals, but memories. It is there that we spend so much time and energy together. It seems important that there we can also craft ritual to feed our souls, as well as our bodies.
Our lives are so often devoid of nourishing ritual. It is easy to loose our focus, to not pay attention. Listening to jarring music, talking on the telephone, watching television, thinking of tomorrow while we chop and stir in the kitchen are all habits that can get in the way of the deeper practice of cooking. Bringing some ritual into the kitchen is actually a way of coming back to the center of you. And the food you then offer becomes richer nourishment for those to whom we offer it.
Before I prepare a meal, I like to pause and remember where the food comes from, to appreciate the sun and rain, the soil, the farmer who grew the seeds, and my farm team, including my children, who helped to till, plant and nurture the seedlings, my daughter who so often is the one preparing marvelous food for us. Usually we have a bunch of herbs on the counter to bring fragrance, or a small vase of flowers for a visual feast. All this helps to focus and calm us, often in the midst of the chaos that is our full lives.
We need to remember that the “practical” things, like housework and cooking, need not be separate from the “impractical” things like creativity and meditation. We can dig deeper and find the nourishment for our souls in the mundane. When I hang laundry on the line in the sun and trade winds, I see items of clothing from my children and can hold them in my heart while hanging that tee shirt. I can be thankful for the guests who have enjoyed our farm while staying in our cottages when I hang the freshly washed sheets. I can remember a refreshing swim at the beach while putting up a towel I laid on in the sun that afternoon. With that same reverent attitude we can prepare the family meals and bring all who eat those offerings toward wholeness.
As Anne Scott says in her lovely book which I’m mulling over, “Learning to nourish, learning to be nourished, takes place at the hearth. When we tend the hearth, we open ourselves to receiving nourishment that feeds us—body and soul.”
Blessings on your families, your homes, your kitchens, and your meals.