Conscious Cookery

There are very many different perspectives—ancient and modern—on what constitutes a healthy diet for a human being. Amongst these, there are sometimes striking contradictions about the properties of certain foods and cooking methods.
In the West, the mainstream approach to nutrition generally takes a reductionist stance, tending to determine the value of a food in terms of an analysis of its constituent parts (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals etc). Whilst this is inarguably a valuable perspective to take into account, holistic approaches to nutrition, such as Chinese medicine and the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, believe that people have different body types and therefore have sometimes radically different nutritional requirements. In addition, diet should be further modified according to lifestyle, season and climate, amongst other factors.
Healthy food
A good illustration of this is how a reductionist approach might consider that because tropical fruits are full of vitamin C, they are a good food to eat when somebody is suffering from a cold in winter. A holistic approach, however, would not recommend this, as Nature (in her infinite wisdom) has provided such tropical fruits to cool the body when the weather is extremely hot, and eating them in winter would further contribute to the cold entering more deeply into the body. A better choice would be ginger, which warms the body, clears the mucous membranes and pushes chills and infections out of the body.
Ayurveda, as a therapeutic branch of Yoga, also has a lot to say about the vibrational quality of the food that we choose to eat and its resultant effect on our consciousness. Tamasic foods (generally speaking, meat, intoxicants or foods that that are stale, processed or cooked in unhealthy ways) have the effect of dulling the mind. Rajasic foods (generally, spicy and / or heating foods) have a stimulating effect, sometimes leading to restlessness or irritability. Sattvic foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and other foods that have been cooked or prepared in an appropriate way) bring a sense of balance, health and vitality to our consciousness.
I believe that the perspectives and insights provided by ancient and holistic approaches to nutrition are of great value in choosing the foods that we wish to eat in order to support our health, balance our energy and create a good foundation for our spiritual practice. Ultimately, on the retreats my emphasis is on encouraging us all to develop our own intuition and awareness of which foods are most appropriate for us at a particular time. So then we may naturally lean away from foods that are denatured, processed or unhealthy and refrain from eating too much or in an inappropriate state of mind. Instead, we find ourselves cultivating an appreciation of simplicity, freshness and moderation in our diet. For this reason, “Conscious Eating” and “Conscious selection of food” are as important as “Conscious Cookery”, and these are all therefore an important part of the journey that we make together during the retreat.

In the right state of mind, cooking is a wholesome activity that can be fun, creative, meditative and uplifting. It is the ideal artform whose results (the finished meal) provide the perfect culmination and celebration (the eating ritual!) of the creative efforts that went into it.
Beautiful salad
Around the world, there are so many innovative, unusual and delicious ways of preparing food that heal the body, balance the mind and lift the spirit. In the cooking classes that I lead, I like to include variations of dishes that are taken from ancient healing systems as well as from more contemporary approaches, such as macrobiotics, gourmet wholefood and the raw food movement. I aim to emphasise meals cooked with ingredients that are affordable, readily available and, where possible, locally grown. Bridging the East and the West and the ancient and the modern worlds, my goal is to equip people with the recipes and the knowledge they need to choose and cook meals that support their yoga and meditation practice, delight the senses and positively enhance consciousness.