Choice by choice, moment by moment, I build the necklace of my day, stringing together the choices that form artful living. Julia Cameron
What is is that you really do want, Helen?
I am thinking about food, the way that my food journey is a road map for how to navigate my life journey. What is it that I really do want? Life is a huge buffet of choices, an infinite smorgasbord of perspectives and ideas and opportunities. And this question, that I ask myself over and over, keeps me grounded in what “tastes” good in the present moment. It helps me trust my own gut.
When it comes to food, I am good at trusting my gut. I really am. I love to eat. My father used to boast that his skinny nine year old daughter ate more than he did. And I was brought up in a family that loved food. Cooking was not a chore for our mother – it was a pleasure, a creative outlet, a playground of possibilities. In the summer, our mother gardened and had a compost where we learned that our rotting leftovers became rich dark soil. We were raised on chard and kale and spinach, on carrots we pulled from the ground, and mackerel and flounder we caught in the cove. And there were deserts, too, blueberry cake and date-filled cookies and rhubarb pudding from our own red stalks. In our family, we had sweet tooths and sour tooths and bitter tooths and salty tooths. We kids pulled sticky spruce gum right off the trees and chewed it as if it were the most expensive store bought flavor, and our mother picked dandelion greens from our cottage lawn, sautéed them in mustard and sourcream and sweet white onions. We were given choices, carried right along on our mother’s own food journey. When our mother leapt onto the eating-for-a-healthy-planet bandwagon, we followed, and hearty grains, and crispy stir-fries were added to our menus. And when I was a teenager, she brought the whole world to our kitchen table in coastal Maine as she cooked exotic meal after meal from the Time/Life International Series.
So I was raised with a world of eating possibilities, and a healthy happy outlook toward food. Although I love to peruse cookbooks and watch cooking shows, I have not spent a great deal of time studying the nutritional value of one food over another. And I don’t know the ins and outs of the various diets. When it comes to food, I learned, early on, to trust my own gut. While still in grade school, I noticed the difference, how I felt when I ate something that didn’t agree with me. It didn’t feel good to my gut to eat doughnuts dripping in maple syrup for the main course of a Friday night dinner at my best friend’s house, even though they were homemade that very day. And brussel sprouts were just too bitter for my child palate, even though everyone else seemed to like them.
I’m appreciative of this inner radar that was fostered in my childhood. I have always known that food is here for our pleasure, and the gathering and the preparation of it can be filled with fun. I love to shop at the local food co-op and the Saturday morning farmer’s market. Not only do I draw into my bag the foods that are calling to me, but I visit with friends, feel a part of something big and friendly and local. I love to listen to what I’m hungry for, beans and rice one day, a huge salad, a plate of sautéed greens, grilled portabellas the next. I love to eat pasta when its calling to me, the kind made in Italy that I buy from the local wine store, pasta that tastes almost as good as the pasta we savored in Sicily last May. I love strawberries in late June and raspberries off our bushes in July, peaches in August, and the first crisp apples of late summer. I love to juice with my new juicer when fresh juice is calling to me and to mix up smoothies when its their voice I hear saying, “I’m what feels good today.” I love to listen to what I’m hungry for, and to honor it, even if it seems weird to the rest of the world. I’m brave when it comes to my food journey. I don’t compromise often on my integrity. It is indeed a journey I take from the inside out.
And I want to bring this level of bravery and clarity to my life journey, to the moments where the outside voices, or the inside old beliefs are keeping me from hearing my own gut’s calling. The beauty is that our guts are always there for us, and they are always hungry, and they never lie about what we really want. And all of us are capable of quieting down enough to listen. And I know that when I trust my gut, and I’m doing this more and more, the moments taste delicious, and each day becomes an amazing meal to savor.