Cooking as a Spiritual Practice/Experience

Today Christine Sine posted another entry in her blog series What is a Spiritual Practice? Today’s entry was contributed by John O’Hara and was entitled Anyone Can Cook: Spirituality in the Kitchen. He shares some great thoughts:

“Somehow I feel that we have lost our way in the fog of our industrialized efficiencies. Quick trips to the super warehouse mega store to pick up a slab of this and a pound of that – or more threateningly, something food-ish that has already been prepared, packaged and preheated and frozen in a factory before it reaches us – reduce us to a kind of two-dimensionality, to the vocation of a consumer, when instead we are so much more complex and beautiful creatures who were designed to participate in the food chain, not just feed off the top of it like some glorified trough. What we gain in convenience through supermarkets and fast food, we lose in the quality and tenor of that relationship to what we consume. In the preparation of food, in choosing foods that are local and in season, we are fractionally returning to a more vibrant stewardship over creation. One cannot help but imagine that doing so enhances our worship relationship with the Creator.”

I like this idea of food preparation and cooking as an act of worship. I like the idea of choosing foods consciously, making good stewardship choices when it comes to the food we eat. I like the idea of being more aware of what is in our food and more connected with where our food comes from. To me this seems like a healthy way to enter into worship through food. I also think that there is more to be said about how cooking and food preparation and eating are a spiritual practice. I just had a few more thoughts on the topic and decided I would throw them into the mix as well.

For as long as I can remember my dad has loved to cook. He reads cook books for fun. He makes elaborate gourmet meals. He’s taken cooking classes in France. Some of my best memories of my dad are cooking with him in the kitchen. I grew up knowing that good cooking couldn’t be rushed. You didn’t buy it in packages, it came from fresh ingredients prepared just right. Cooking isn’t just a necessity for survival, cooking is art. And I think I realize more and more now that cooking is also spiritual.

I believe that we are physical beings and God chooses to meet us in our physicality. In some ways as human beings I think we come closest to spirituality and experiencing God during experience that are most tangible and sensual. Cooking is like that. Cooking is incredibly tangible, and kinesthetic, and sensual.

The feel of dried beans running through your fingers

The sound that lettuce makes when you tear it

The smell of sauces cooking on the stove top

The feel of garlic as the peel slides between your fingers

The beauty of a ruby red ripe tomato

The rhythmic action of chopping onion

The smell of fresh parsley

The fragrance of dried herbs

The action of mixing unique individual ingredients into a creation that engages all of your taste buds.

Cooking is an act for the senses. It engages the body in a way that reminds us physically of the life and beauty all around us. In cooking we experience God’s provision, God’s creativity, God’s life and beauty and we experience it tangibly with our senses. Our bodies and senses experience that which our mind often forgets.

I think it’s interesting that so many religions have feasts attached to their holidays, and sacred celebrations. Somewhere within we know that there is something sacred about cooking and eating together. As we cook we join God in his creative action and as we eat we take that which is living into ourselves and from it derive life for another day. Cooking and eating is the simplest and most daily of actions, but to me it seems that it can also be one of the most spiritual and holy. What do you think?

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman

Photographs by Beth Stedman