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Leslie Hendry Headshot

Put Down the Cooking Gadgets and Clean Up

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In the past two decades or so there's been an explosion of interest in home cooking. Not exactly like our mother's or grandmother's home cooking. Perhaps it shouldn't even be referred to as "cooking" but more as "cheffing." The verb could be described as experiencing food in a different fashion.

Maybe cooking shows inspire you, maybe you love to entertain and cooking is a part of that, maybe it's because YouTube shows how to do mostly anything that enables these talents, or simply it's amazingly satisfying to put fresh food on the table that people love.

You invest in kitchen gadets and tools. We bring professional tools to our kitchens to help reveal our inner chef. We become better educated in gastronomy, how to prepare dishes, how to mix seasonings, timing, nuances, just the right amount of this and that. Some home chefs even introduce their food by reporting on the ingredients' role in the making and their fresh and/or organic origins.

Soon enough you are inducted into the world of a foodie. You appreciate food, you're educated on food, you take pleasure in food. One can spend all day preparing a meal from the market, to the prepping, to the cooking, to the presentation, to the eating. You become a card-carrying foodie for life.

My own editorialized relationship with food went like this: school lunches, mom's supper, fatting dorm food, top raamen and salads in law school, expense accounts for entertaining in New York, to full on foodie living in Paris roaming the streets for the perfect foir gras, the origins of lardo in Italy and perfecting chile nogales in Mexico. But then all came to a scretching halt.

I'd gained weight. I was bloated from the salt in the morning, not to mention the bags under my eyes from the wine. Of course I was getting older, but that lifestyle didn't help. Over the next few years I slowly eschewed my French cookbooks for Japanese ones. I transitioned into practicing yoga more frequently and most importantly I embarked on a career that I truly loved.

As I got more into my regular yoga practice, my eating habits changed simply because I didn't want to feel bloated or puffy in the morning. I had to do those dreaded yoga twists that re-introduced me to my waist line, hips and arms. As as it got easier to twist, I moved away from big gourmet dishes. It was no Sophie's Choice. They made less sense to me. Of course not for good but my foodie days transitioned into a lighter existance.

After years of yoga, my internal life changed as well. The way my body responded to the daily practice on the mat gave me confidence. Like a kid who learns to ride a bike for the first time I felt freedom and independence. My body was stronger, leaner and I was learning about surrender, humility and less about reduction sauces.

Life got simpler as well. On a lighter trajectory, I got rid of excess baggage literally and figuratively. Accumulating more things became suffocating. Over time, I tackled bulging closets and drawers more regularly. I gave away things I hadn't worn or used in a while. Instead of running around town for ingredients, spending the day in the kitchen I put energy into making my house lighter. When things started to look more minimialistic (without it feeling cold and barren) I found cleaning more approachable. I also had more time to clean on a regular basis. It doesn't seem as fun as "cheffing" but all around my life became less heavy.

Possessions and consumption of any sort occupied my time in a way I hadn't realized. These days I experience cleaning in a different fashion. I take stock of what I have when I mop the floors, put the dishes away, open that closet door, or vacuum the carpet. I might not have a relaxing glass of wine; I either play music or listen to the quiet. This cleaning time is meditative, reflective and satisfying and releases good energy into my home.

I still love to create in the kitchen don't get me wrong, but I've added something else that's creative, reflective, positive, active, and satisfying to my life's priorities. Paring down what you really need to live, and freeing up time for something other than consuming is a new way to look at cleaning. There's no other way to appreciate quite who we are than becoming better acquainted with our personal environment.

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