Chattering Mind

My friend Myra, a graduate of New York’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition, has launched her own nutritional consulting business, and I signed on as a client last spring thinking I’d get good nutritional tips (that I could then pass on to you), as well as some help with my anemia. Little did I know that psychotherapy would come gratis as part of the package!

Myra believes that most people won’t cook healthy meals at home if they feel they can’t prepare them quickly. The need for speed in our lives is what often drives us to eat frozen, prepared foods or carry-out meals from restaurants (all of which tend to be high in sodium and fat).

I sometimes come home with the children in the late afternoon having no idea what’s on my menu for dinner. Just not a clue. I’ve tried different ways of getting organized and stocking my whole foods pantry, but I’m often tempted to grab California roll from sushi bars on my way home because the idea of facing my kitchen some nights is almost unbearable.

Myra seemed to quickly comprehend the lay of the land chez moi. And for several hours, she held her tongue and just worked with me to see that it made no sense to have my spices where I couldn’t see them, bowls where I couldn’t reach them, and pans stored in the stove. My knives were housed in a long narrow drawer, which made grabbing one a dangerous proposition. My counters were clean, but cluttered with appliances. Sound familiar? And son of a gun! It had become so difficult to find utensils that I’d gone out and purchased more, so during Myra’s visit, I found four spatulas, two can openers, and two melon ballers! We found a box in the basement and threw in all the utensils I didn’t need in duplicate. We also decanted a lot of beans and grains from their food co-op bags, and put them in stackable containers like these.

Before Myra departed, she turned to me and said with great warmth and intelligence: “As for homework, I’d like you to think a little bit about why you let your kitchen get this way, and why you chose…” she paused to put some black-eyed peas into my pantry, “to disown your power in this manner.”

Phew! Chattering thoughts rushed in as I sat in the silence of my better-organized kitchen to reflect. My own mother was a glamorous chef and gourmet goddess, the pride of our suburban neighborhood, always whipping up something exotic, over-the-top, and delicious. Could it be that four years after her death (as a result of a major stroke she had as she happened to be tenderizing flank steak in her state-of-the-art kitchen), I still think Mom’s in charge of meals? Could it be that I am reluctant to compete with her?

So dear readers, send me descriptions of your kitchen and your relation to it–what’s working for you there, and what’s not–and tell us all how your kitchen influences the food you prepare. If it’s a chore to prepare meals, as it was for me pre-Myra, we can talk more. Men chime in, please. I know many families have more kitchen-duty equity than we Chatterings currently savor, so I’d love to hear about how, if you’re coupled, you blend your organizational and cooking styles in one space.

Here’s the thing: If you are unhappy with your kitchen, you shouldn’t resign yourself to remaining unhappy. Think more about cooking efficiency and see how many extra minutes it’s taking you to cook when you can’t quickly access your equipment. Remember food is spiritual, food is love; it won’t taste as good if it comes out of a setting that constantly frustrates. Also, from Feng Shui, you’ll learn that the kitchen can manifest financial wellbeing. So what pleasure you take in the preparation of your meals is paramount.

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