Joy of Cooking … and laughter!

By Suzanne Holman • June 29th, 2010

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Sunday’s message by Richard Maraj, minister of Unity of Phoenix church was part of the series on Spirituality in Everyday Life.

Focus this time was on food and cooking and how it corresponds to life.  Three main lessons about cooking relate to Service, Creativity, and Connection.   Below is the audio of the talk…

All of the Sunday services are available online either as an audio file or as a video. Enjoy!

MP3 File

Thoughts about the message as shared on the Unity of Phoenix website.

If you need a little chuckle or would like to roll on the floor laughing today, please take a minute to listen to the talk-at least the beginning.  Richard had us all rolling in the aisles as it went on and on talking with all the many sayings we have that relate to food.   After a very moving meditation experience, as I listened to this, I broke into SO much laughter!  I just had to share it with you.

What I started thinking about during the service was how my mother found so much joy in cooking and serving food.  This was her Love Language.  She expressed her love to everyone by preparing wonderful food and sharing it with many.

Christmas time always meant baking a lot of cookies, preparing boxes with the variety of cookies and taking them around to people who were house bound.  We often did this early on Christmas Eve.

We had so many big dinners at our home.  Parties for birthdays and parties for the adults.  We kids enjoyed the adult parties as we helped out in the kitchen and had fun doing it….  Favorite memory was playing with the can of whipped cream as we garnished many desserts with it!

When Mom and Dad moved into a retirement community where they went to a dinner everyday in the dining room, Mom’s cooking decreased more and more over the years and finally stopped.   Sometimes I wonder how much the loss of that creative outlet, that way Mom expressed her love may have contributed to her developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Food, glorious food! How we all love food! We love to think about it, dream about it, look at it, smell it, touch it, experiment with it, and taste it. Food is one of our basic necessities, but it plays a far more important role than simple survival. It’s an integral part of our social and emotional lives, and is a deeply engrained part of our culture.

Food is even an overwhelming part of our language! “He’s a good egg.” “She’s a bad apple.” “You’re the big cheese … and the apple of my eye!”

There is also a very strong connection between food and spirituality. The Bible has more than 600 references to bread. Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding feast, where he turned water into wine. The last group activity Jesus engaged in was The Last Supper, where he broke bread with his disciples, using it as the ritualistic symbol of communion. “Take this and eat it, for this is my body … Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” When Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection, he completed three important acts around food: he helped them catch fish to sustain their lives; he cooked the food and served it to them; and he said to Peter, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus used a food analogy to direct his disciples to nourish the people: to feed their spirits, to sate the hunger and quench the thirst we all have for a deeper spiritual life, and for more love, joy, peace, happiness and fulfillment.

Food is a powerful symbol of life, and cooking is the act of preparing and designing that food into meals – or life experiences – that nourish and sustain us. In this sense, cooking can be viewed as a beautiful, sacred, spiritual activity that has many lessons to teach us. Following are three important life lessons we can learn from cooking to help us experience life in a more joyful, fulfilling way.

Lesson #1. Cooking is an art of service. Cooking is one of the many ways we can express love, kindness and service. Emeril Lagasse said that a chef’s greatest joy comes from preparing a good meal, and then watching the delight and contentment of all those who enjoy it. Every cook has a desire to serve, to prepare something that provides a positive, joyful, nourishing experience for others. Famed humanitarian Albert Schweitzer said, “One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Cooking is one vehicle through which we can share our gifts and serve others, a vehicle through which we can express the love that we are here to share. Serving food is just not about the ingredients we use, but the way in which we cook: infusing the food we prepare with a spirit of joy, love, positive energy and desire to serve. Nothing can beat a “home cooked” meal, because it embodies the heart and hands that have poured love into the food … and that’s what makes the difference. This week, make an attempt to serve someone else using food! Cook a meal for your family, surprise a co-worker with a sandwich or cup of coffee, invite someone to lunch, or share your snack bar with a friend. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you pay close attention to the art of service in your act, because that is truly what can bring joy and fulfillment to your life.

Lesson #2. Cooking helps us develop the art of creativity. Cooking involves mixing together different ingredients to create something better than any of the individual ingredients, alone. Flour, butter, sugar and eggs combine into a beautiful cake; a mixture of tomatoes, onions and garlic creates a delectable spaghetti sauce. Every one of the recipes we enjoy has been developed by someone who used ingenuity to mix together ingredients in a new and different way. God gave us the cow, the cocoa bean, and the peanut … but it took the creativity of a human mind to come up with a Reeses peanut butter cup! There are thousands of spices and ingredients available to us in this great banquet we call life, but many of us have never heard of or used a good portion of them. It’s important to explore new ingredients and incorporate them into our regular routines, because that’s how we create new flavors, new tastes, new dishes … and new experiences!!! God has provided all the ingredients we need for a happy and fulfilling life … but many of us choose to keep eating the same foods (doing the same things, repeating the same mistakes). We fling open the pantry door andscream, “There’s nothing in this house to eat! The cupboard is bare!” We attest that we don’t have enough – or the right kind of — ingredients to succeed or experience a great life. Some of us become frustrated at being served financial challenges, abuse, broken relationships or health challenges. Famed motivational speaker Les Brown was served a main ingredient of poverty, with a side dish of being labeled as mentally retarded. But he used his creativity to mix those ingredients together in different combination and create something better … to concoct a greater, more delicious dish as his slice of life. Now he is one of the most successful speakers in the world!

Like a master chef, we must all practice the art of mixing together the ingredients we have in our lives to create happier, more fulfilling experiences.

Lesson #3. Cooking provides connection to others. Food has historically been a primary vehicle through which we connect with one another. Food is the centerpiece around which we gather with family, friends and community. Moreover, the food we eat is blessed and touched by a great many more people than we are even aware: from the people who plant the seeds; tend the growing crops; and harvest, transport and sell the fruit of the leave; to those who buy, prepare and serve the final product. Food offers a wonderful venue to let down our walls, open our hearts, and make a strong connection with others. We take casseroles to those who have suffered a crisis, bake cookies to welcome a new neighbor, and take advantage of a cup of coffee to catch up with a friend. We share meals with our loved ones to celebrate happy occasions and break bread to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. One of the really beautiful aspects of cooking and dining together is that these acts allow us to make a heart connection and realize our true Oneness with one another. Food helps us demonstrate that we are there for others, that we care for them, and that we want to nourish, encourage and sustain them. And that’s where true fulfillment lies.

So this week, remember the powerful lesson that food and cooking provide. When we take the time to serve in love, creatively mix together the ingredients of our lives to make something better, and reach out our hearts and hands to connect with others, our lives will feel like a bountiful banquet. Each and every day will bring a new feast that will feed and fulfill our minds, bodies and spirits

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