There's a common denominator that unites us in our eating experiences: most of us want to feel nourished from the food we eat. Nourishment is sustenance for all of the senses. It is a basic human necessity that is learned over time in response to our changing bodies, environments and lifestyles.
Marketing, media, and the health industry can make it seem like nourishment is an intellectual pursuit of understanding nutrition; food is of course vital to our health and wellness. But in my humble opinion as a chef and nutritionist, there is an art to nourishment, which is to say it is an expression of skill and imagination like any other art form. It goes beyond the thinking mind and requires physical practice.
Remember those V8 commercials? Those commercials were so seductive in making you believe that nourishment comes in a bottle of red liquid to down in one gulp. True nourishment in reality takes time and preparation. The planning, cooking, multitasking, and intuition are the pearls to becoming the nourisher we all want to be. Most of the time I spend with clients is helping them improve upon these foundational components so that they can love what they're eating and feel good about what's going into their bodies. Nourishment is not only the understanding of what your body needs to feel good on all cylinders but the culinary dance steps to get there.
1. Knife Skills are Life Skills
You don't need to be Morimoto with a knife, but confidently wielding one in the kitchen will give you speed, and speed will keep you an inspired and curious cook. Knife skills are the foundation. This can't be understated. And believe it or not, knife skills can make your food taste better. Delicious, nourishing food has a lot to do with texture, which is a result from the cutting as well as the cooking. A knife skills class is a priceless gift. If you can't easily get to a class, you can find great tutorials online, such as these videos from the NY Times.
2. Time Saver
Nourishing yourself or an entire family usually means making multiple dishes for the week. Learning to multitask is an advantageous skill in this case. It's my greatest asset in the kitchen. While multitasking isn't always good for the brain, in the kitchen there are many benefits: it saves time during the week, results in a variety of dishes, provides more potential to eat a spectrum of plant based nutrition, shifts you into a state of flow, whereby you so focused on what's right in front of you and the stove. If you have trouble doing more than one thing in the kitchen you can practice multitasking by making a list of some very easy things you can do at once. Look at your list and see what foods you can make quickly while other foods are cooking that take longer. For example: I might make a dressing, pesto, and salad while grains and beans are cooking and a chicken is roasting. After just a couple hours I could have 7 or 8 dishes made or prepped for the week.
3. Meal Plan
If you've read my past blogs you know I'm a huge proponent of meal planning. Nourishment becomes more manageable with a plan in place. That means carving out a little time each week to decide your meals and shop accordingly. Check out my blog:
Meal Planning for Success. Meal planning minimizes the stress of that day-to-day questions, "what's to eat". Less stress means more joy in the actual cooking.
If you're a newer cook or just feel like it's difficult to be a spontaneous, off-the-cuff cook, intuition will come once the steps listed above feel more familiar and comfortable. Intuition is what happens when we let go of the thinking mind and allow more of the imaginative mind to emerge. Once you understand the basic technique of making certain dishes than you'll feel more at ease riffing with different flavors and ingredients. Intuition also comes in hand in creating less food waste. You'll look in your fridge and know how to use up vegetables that were hanging around a bit too long or how to repurpose some cooked foods the kids didn't eat. I will often take uneaten roasted cauliflower and broccoli and make a tasty veggie burger out of it for my daughter.
I've taught the art of nourishment for many people, in all kinds of circumstances. From cancer survivors to families to a college student with merely a hot plate. Each person has a different situation but the culinary dance steps to success are always the same. Practice the foundational steps discussed here, and the intellectual knowledge of nutritious eating will flow more easily from the head through the heart to the plate.