The Spirituality of Food

BY NANCY HALA

When I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating. I wake up every morning contemplating the meals in store for the day – what they’ll be and how I’ll make them. When my kids, who are now in their twenties, were young and living at home, this, more than work, was the biggest part of my life. Dinner in particular was a milestone. A seven-times-a-week event.

At a certain point, daily practice of anything is soulful. If you run every day, running becomes meditative. If you write every day, writing is reflective. For me, cooking every day became a spiritual practice.

Spirituality is most potent, I think, when you’re in service to someone or something beyond yourself. That’s why I love food, because more often than not I’m making it for someone else. Baking a banana bread and bringing it to someone’s house. Cooking a pot of soup and ladling it into someone’s bowl. There’s such a quiet joy in that.

Food is spiritual for me when I approach it mindfully. When I’m not snacking on auto pilot throughout the day. Or ordering takeout. Or eating in front of the TV (which I love to do). Or eating too much and feeling heavy and regretful. It becomes spiritual when I take the time to go the farmers market on Sunday morning and talk with the vendors about their zucchini and tomatoes. When I curl up on the couch with a cookbook, scanning recipe after recipe, imagining making things for people I love. When I’m in my kitchen, standing at my counter, chopping vegetables and herbs with patient precision. When I sit down to a meal and say my version of grace — looking at the brightly colored vegetables before me and taking a moment to feel grateful for living in a world of such sheer natural abundance. When I eat slowly and thoughtfully, appreciating every bite, and stopping when I’ve had enough.

The dishes I like the best have a mindfulness about them too. They’re comforting and delicious, and speak of giving. I recently discovered Buddha Bowls – simply prepared bowls of grains, legumes and vegetables. I read somewhere about the history of the Buddha Bowl: monks would walk through towns carrying empty bowls in their hands, and villagers would greet them in the street to share whatever they had to give – putting a scoop of rice, a handful of beans, a boiled potato into the bowl. Prepared humbly, with love, and happily shared. The very definition of the spirituality of food.

The Buddha Bowl

SERVES: 2

TOTAL TIME: 45 min.

INGREDIENTS

The Base:

1 cup of dry brown rice or quinoa, prepared per the package directions

The Veg:

1 bunch of curly kale, rinsed and chopped into medium sized pieces

1 small cauliflower, rinsed and chopped into medium sized chunks

1 red onion, peeled, quartered and the slices divided

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into medium sized cubes

Salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste

Olive oil for coating the vegetables

The Beans:

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon of each: cumin, oregano, chili powder, granulated garlic, granulated onion, sea salt and pepper.

The Sauce:

½ cup of tahini

¼ cup of warm water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

the juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375.

Once the kale, cauliflower, onion and sweet potato are rinsed and chopped, place them separately (one at a time) in a bowl, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Toss with your hands.

Place the cauliflower and sweet potato on a cookie sheet.

Set aside the kale and onion.

Try to keep all the veg separate as this will make assembling the bowl easier.

Roast the cauliflower and sweet potato first (for 15 minutes).

Then add the kale and onion to the sheet (roasting all for another 15 minutes).

The veg are done when you can easily spear the cauliflower and sweet potato with a fork and the kale and onion look browned but not burnt.

While the veg are roasting, prepare the beans and sauce.

In a small bowl, combine the beans with all the dry spices.

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a hot non-stick pan and add the beans, stirring constantly as they sauté, for no more than 5-8 minutes (you want them coated with the spice and browned slightly but not burnt). Set aside.

To make the sauce, combine the tahini and warm water in a small bowl, whisking thoroughly to smooth out the paste and turn it into the consistency of sauce.

Add the syrup and lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Once the veg are roasted, you can build your Buddha bowls.

Put a scoop of rice or quinoa in the center of a wide-rimmed bowl. (I use a one-cup measuring cup to put a nice sized mound in the center of the bowl, but you can use as much or little grain as you like.)

Working in a circle arrange scoops of kale, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion and beans around the grain.

Drizzle the dish with the sauce.

Serve with a smile.

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