Recipe for feeling alive.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
I used to sulk at the thought of cooking. I was a fried egg and takeaway kind of guy. Eating out was a necessity to keep the peace at home.
Today I can’t wait to cook something delicious with my wife. Eating something homemade has become one of our favorite pastimes. I look forward to the day and the time we can cook something new, familiar or special. Was it just Covid? I think it’s deeper.
Flashback 2 years ago and I was a monastic wreck.
I had just left my fancy corporate job after falling out with my boss. I was dejected and bitter. I had slowly but steadily self-sabotaged myself to the edge. But being out did not make me feel free. It was frightening. I was isolated, lonely, and depressed. I would spend my days in silence at home.
I told my wife to go to work and not work from home as I needed the space. The space to sulk. I would wake up and contemplate my defeat again and again. I would leave the house in the afternoon and walk to the beach and walk for hours and then sit down at a beach side bar and have lunch and stay there till the evening. My wife would call and ask about dinner and I would insist that we eat out or order a takeaway. Evenings at home were a saga of sadness and remorse and arguments with my wife about what I should do next vs. what she thought I should consider.
It was a very dark, painful, and confusing year. It was a year when the pus in my heart finally burst open. My ego had taken over my heart. I had become imprisoned to my material desires. But deep inside I knew that this could destroy me. It could give me everything I thought I wanted and take away everything I needed to be happy. I knew I had to make a surgical intervention.
The most important change I made in my life was to realize that I was nature. Not disconnected from it but made of it. I found that the only way I could find myself was to get closer to nature and also to my own unique nature.
I had lived for so long in denial of this truth that it was very hard at first to reconnect with nature. But slowly I started to feel that connection. I used to sit in my little garden surrounded by flowers and bees and butterflies and birds and see myself as a part of them. I saw how I was connected to them through this energy called life. They were alive and in the joy of their day-to-day. I felt that if they could be like that — then so could i. I could find my own joy.
I started to feel this energy slowly. I started by paying attention to what I ate. I started to take the time to make my own breakfast. Fried eggs became my meditation. Then an Omelet, and then sausages joined the party. I started to look forward to thinking about what I could cook and eat.
My wife noticed it. She suggested we try Asian cuisine . Next thing I knew we had gone shopping for an entire slew of ingredients I had never heard of. Rice wine, Sesame oil, Peanut oil, Nampla (Fish sauce), Hoisin sauce, Sichuan red chili flakes, Oyster sauce…
We looked up YouTube for recipes and cooking instructions. We even bought a Steamer. We started to buy dumplings from the oriental store to start us off in the cook-offs…and surprisingly I was rapt with curiosity and attention.
When we are suffering or in mental despair, the first thing that we lose is our enthusiasm and curiosity.
Cooking something new can bring it back.
We started to spend our evenings thinking about what we wanted to eat in the coming week and then looking up recipes that we wanted to try. My wife would then watch the videos over and over again to write the recipes down until she was ready to cook.
I was appointed the Sous-chef. Second in command but the first in line for all cleaning, cutting, stirring, de-ovening responsibilities. I even got my own apron and gloves!
We started to cook easy recipes first. A mushroom soup, then a chicken soup, and then we became more ambitious and even included delicacies like Prawn fried rice; chili-ginger chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, Chicken stir fry noodles...
Today we have over 65 recipes in our book from all over the world that we have cooked at least twice through these Covid months.
I have discovered that I love cooking and eating at home. I love my own version of a master chef recipe. I love cooking with my wife. I love her more every time we argue about how fine the onions need to be in the base sauce.
This article is meant for those people out there who are feeling a bit jaded or anxious about life. I suggest you try cooking meditation. Cook something you want to really eat with care and if you can with someone you love. It has wonderful healing powers.
It will give you a goal. A focus. And then a way to enjoy the outcome.It will bring you out of your selfish criticism. It will make you use a different part of your brain. It will teach you a useful life skill. It will help you feel connected with someone else in your life. And make you feel grateful for your daily bread and sauce.
I suggest you try it.
Here is an easy recipe that we really love to cook together.
Teriyaki Chicken and Rice (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts cut into thin slices; Jasmine rice; Spring onions and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh garlic.
For the sauce you will need:
2 tablespoons Apple Cider vinegar Or 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing Chinese Rice Wine; 1 tablespoon of Freshly minced garlic; 1 tablespoon of Sesame seed Oil; 1 tablespoon of red chili sauce; 1 tablespoon of dark Soya; 2 tablespoons of light Soya and 1 teaspoon of Corn Starch. Mix them in a bowl and put them aside for later.
Step 1: Heat some oil in a pan.
2- When the oil is hot saute the chicken pieces on a high fire until the meat turns golden.
3. Add the garlic and continue to saute.
4. Add the sauce.
5. Stir for 3–5 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.
6. Add chopped spring onions.
7. Put off the fire within 30 seconds.
8. Serve with freshly cooked Jasmine Rice
Note: This recipe is our slightly modified version of the recipes that I have linked at the start of the recipe.