By Lisa A. Listwa
It’s that time of year again…
The time of year, from late October through early January, when everything is all about the food.
OK, let’s be honest; it’s really all about the food pretty much all year. But there’s a hefty concentration of holidays, festivals, and celebrations in the fall and early winter.
And I say: bring it on.
Many of us associate memories — both good and not so good — with holidays and their respective foods. The year the cookies turned out best. The year of the turkey disaster. The first holiday meal cooked for the in-laws. And so on…
It makes sense, really. In many cases we return home for the holidays and in doing so expect to find those familiar sights, sounds, smells, and flavors we associate with home. Food is a reminder of home, of comfort and safety. Food is nourishing, sustaining.
We turn to things like homemade chicken soup when we have a cold. We seek out our childhood favorites when we want to feel close to loved ones; my Mom’s meatloaf does it for me. Or chicken pot pie. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches are just the thing to warm us up on a cold, snowy day.
Food does so much more than nourish our bodies; it nourishes the heart, the mind, and the spirit as well. Food made with love by people we love makes us feel cherished. We bask in the warmth and luxuriate in the flavors of not only the food itself, but also the care that went into its preparation.
Just as surely, food made and served in anger tastes, well…different. It tastes like anger. Or any other emotion you want to plug in there.
Think about it. Think about the mindset and emotion you experienced the last time you made a meal. Was it positive, loving, or joyous? Or filled with anger, upset, or resentment? I have observed many times over that the results of my culinary efforts have everything to do with how I feel and how I am as I prepare it. Everything.
Benjamin Franklin said, “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” He was stressing the importance of learning, of feeding the mind. I would further that idea to include the heart and soul as well.
Just as our bodies need food in order to thrive, so do our non-physical selves. The positive associations we assign to food are a good place to start, but food for the mind and soul is just as important to our growth and health as food is for the physical body.
At this hectic and emotionally charged time of year, it is critical to care for ourselves in every way possible. As wonderful as they can be, all the festivities and gatherings still often leave us feeling drained. It’s important to find ways to relax and recharge.
But even more important than just getting through the holiday stress, can we learn how to fully nourish our minds and spirits, not only at this time of year, but all year long?
Maybe an evening walk or morning hike enlivens your senses. Maybe creative endeavors such as dancing, writing, or painting keep your spirits bright. Do you find yourself moved by music and literature? Do you love to play a sport? Or build with Legos?
How about the joy of cooking or baking, since we’re talking food here?
Yoga? Meditation? Jigsaw or crossword puzzles? Woodworking? Welding?
I suppose the short answer is different for everyone. And it probably doesn’t really matter what you choose. But it is important – perhaps crucial to our human potential – to choose something that stirs your soul and brings you to life.
Enjoy your holidays, in whatever manner you do and with whomever you hold dear.
And in the midst of it all, remember to feed and nourish yourself in body, mind, and spirit.
Lisa A. Listwa is OTV’s Author-in-Residence
Image: Dan’s Papers