As John Lennon once famously sang, "Love is Real." Watching a mother cradle a newborn, I think it's safe to say that you can see love. A hug or a gentle touch from someone who cares about me certainly qualifies as feeling love. But lately, as we're planning Spring classes at Haven's Kitchen, I've been wondering -- can you taste love?
In Zen philosophy, there is a lot of juicy (no pun intended) content regarding cooking. The basic belief is that energy is transferred directly from the ingredients to the cook, into the food and then to the eater. If you prepare a meal with love and empathy, the food will transmit that to the one you are feeding. Feeding others, not only physically but also emotionally, is a key tenet in Zen philosophy. Zen monks spend a substantial amount of their day cooking because it helps them practice mindfulness, service to others, and patience.
All spiritual belief systems contain some boundaries and ideologies related to food. Not only what to eat and not to eat, but also guidelines around the way we eat, the way we prepare food, and the way we relate to what will become food. Most religions account for an energy in food that will affect the person who eats it. Historically, most humans have ascribed to some variety of the belief that we can, in fact, taste joy, bitterness, anger, boredom, excitement, lust, etc...
I would love to do a real research project on this -- I can imagine making meals in different moods and somehow measuring if people could taste the emotion behind the food. However, obviously, there are many challenges to this study. First and foremost being that I don't think I can orchestrate my own mood very well, how would I make myself feel anger or conjure up joy if I've had a 'meh' day? And equally challenging is the guilt I would undoubtedly feel feeding people angry or hostile food.
So I think I'll go without a less-than-scientific study and continue to believe and teach people that love is, in fact, real. And that whether or not the people you are feeding know that they are tasting it -- they are, and their bodies are absorbing it, and it is healing them, soothing them, nurturing them.
I'll continue to trust my instincts and those of generations before me that if an animal gives its life to feed me it will pass on the energy it embodied during its life (and death). And that if I say a word of gratitude before I take my first bite that bite will deliver more than nutrition, it will feed my soul as well. If the soil is pure and and clean then the vegetables that grow from it will pass on that clarity and that goodness. If a sheep nibbles on grass sprayed only with unpolluted rain, then the cheese from that sheep will be imbued with something heavenly.
I'll continue to imbue as much love and patience into the food that I feed my friends and family, and I'll continue to teach people that the best way to show people that you love them is to feed them delicious, healthful, love-filled food.