3,600 Feet Over the Atlantic Ocean
One never knows when the inspiration to write will take over. If you like to write or if you’re a writer yourself you will definitely understand. A few years ago I was on a flight from New York to Stockholm, Sweden. Incredibly enough I started to get a writer’s itch due to thoughts I was having as we ascended into the friendly skies. Once the captain announced that we reached our cruising altitude of 3,600 feet and we were free to move about the cabin, I shot off my seat to grab my pen and writing pad from the overhead compartment. What you are about to read below was written at 3,600 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. The writings from this plane ride helped me to formulate an idea for a cookbook. But, not a regular recipe-driven cookbook. I’m talking about a cooking therapy-themed cookbook that can be used to help you connect back to your life in times of disconnect. Enjoy the read below.
The Essence of Knife Skills
Not a day goes by in a line cook’s life where he/she doesn’t perform or tap into some sort of knife skill. Knife skills are as necessary and as fundamental to a good cook as mirepoix is to a professional kitchen. This French word is part of the daily vocabulary in chef-driven restaurants. MirePoix (carrots, onions, and celery) are the basic building blocks of cuisine and the backbone of classic sauces, soups, stocks, and fonds.
A Mirepoix of onion, green bell pepper, and celery is considered to be a holy trinity in Louisiana Creole/Cajun cooking. From a mirepoix, chefs can create a potpourri of flavors that will enhance many dishes.
The simple acts of washing, peeling, chopping and dicing are where the basics of food therapy were revealed to me.
Making a proper mirepoix will put your knife skills to the task. These ritualistic acts that are routinely performed day in and day out in a professional kitchen are definitely the building blocks to delicious food. Inadvertently they can also be a great source for healing and act as a form of cooking therapy.
Mire Poix | Potpourri of Kitchen Life
In difficult times our thoughts might become consumed by the mind missiles that are going off between our ears. This constant and habitual thought pattern about (an) ever-pressing concern(s), literally creates a constantly flowing river of worry, stress, anxiety, confusion, and depression in our minds, that begins to consume us. It can literally place us stuck in our own lives. Leaving us an inability to think clearly and move on.
But there is hope. Great hope! Something as simple as cutting mirepoix as mentioned above can begin to help. Attention to detail, sorting through the vegetables, washing them, peeling them, and ultimately chopping them correctly with caution and care is a first step in combating the debilitating thoughts that have taken over our minds. You can now begin to plant the seeds of new fresh thoughts with a delicious end result. Nourishing yourself from the inside out can be a monumental thing.
Aeration of Batters, Creams, and Meringues
As explained most therapy in cooking can be found in the ritualistic procedures that take place day in and day out in creating recipes. The pastry kitchen is also full of many therapeutic procedures. We will start with the ”mirepoix” of a pastry kitchen– batters, creams, and meringues. And, the process most commonly used in a recipe to transform them into something mouthwatering is aeration via whisking.
If you’ve ever tried whipping a few cups of cream by hand you’ll know how tiring it can be to your arm. Whipping and aerating by hand takes time and lots of energy. After whisking long and hard enough your arm will tire and eventually begin to burn from the amount of energy you are expending in order to create a sweet, luscious aerated whipped cream. And who doesn’t like whipped cream? It’s a childhood favorite and it brings out the child in many adults.
Yes, you can use egg beaters or an electric stand mixer to whip things up and keep your arms well-rested. But, then the ability to tap into the therapeutic qualities of it all will be lost. The therapeutic inspiration will vanish into the mechanical apparatus of the machinery. Like the saying goes, “no pain, no gain!” This time honored saying oddly enough also applies to therapeutic cooking. Taking shortcuts at the gym will not reap a good result. The same holds true for inspirational cooking. Shortcuts basically will shortcut you from receiving the therapy and ultimately feeling good. So, roll up your sleeves and go for it!
And don’t fret about your tiring arm. Mother Nature gave us two arms. When one tires, simply switch. We are shooting for therapy here not Olympic gold medals.
Keep focused and continuously whip until the complete aeration is reached for the recipe. Take out those aggressions in a controlled whipping motion and whip till your heart’s content! As the chemistry of what you’re whipping begins to change into something lighter, aerated, and more delicious so should you begin to feel lighter and somewhat freed from the heaviness that has entered your life.
Think about air for a quick minute. Humm! Without air and more specifically oxygen, life ceases to exist as we know it. By incorporating air into batters, creams, and meringues we are enlivening them. We are breathing life into them and uplifting them to something better and more delicious. And at the same time, we are enlivening ourselves.
The catch and the takeaway here is to realize that during this whipping process we are simultaneously aerating our own minds and spirit. As the cream has eventually changed to a luscious whipped cream you too can change into something more peaceful and harmonious.
Baking can be a great opportunity to bring balance back into our lives just like our old friend Mr. Mirepoix. I joke but it’s true. Here is one last bit of advice. Remember to breathe in and out while cooking in nice even breaths as you methodically go through the motion aspects of a recipe. Mindful breathing is important and it can be done easily, without anyone else knowing. Well, except for your pots and pans. They’ll know and that’s okay.
If you liked this article you may also enjoy reading about Inspirational Cooking When Recipes Just Aren’t Enough.
“DESIGN YOUR DISH ~ DESIGN YOUR LIFE.”