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The Deep Joy of Cooking

Debra Redalia


It’s 5:32 am.

I am up and here in my tiny kitchen that is just a few steps from my office. It’s just before sunrise when the light is just starting to make everything visible. I hear the birds singing and the rooster crowing, the whir of the induction burner, and the steam escaping every few seconds as the beans cook—the heirloom beans from a local organic farm. I remember going to the farm and buying the beans there and talking with the farmer. I smile.

Since I started my Wholefood Cuisine blog, I’ve made a commitment to living with food on a deeper level. In fact, I started the blog for just that purpose—as a structure that would support me in making changes in my life around food that I hadn’t yet made. I figured that if I worked out my intention around food, announced it, and had a place to write about how I was exploring the subject and living it in my daily life that I would be more organized about doing it.

I was right.

I cannot even begin to tell you the joy I am experiencing having the rhythm of my daily life revolving around providing wholefood for Larry and myself instead of having my daily life revolve around work. Virtually all of my life, work came first. Like everyone else, I had to earn money to support my consumer lifestyle and my mortgage payment and my car payment and healthcare costs. But having given up pursuit of the industrial consumer lifestyle in favor of creating a lifestyle based in Life I am now free to have my life revolve around something else.

After air and water, food is one of the essentials of life. It provides all the energy and nutrients our bodies need to live. The quality of our food is basic to the health of our bodies.

Larry and I have made a commitment to eating only foods that I prepare for us, which means I have to prepare it or we don’t eat. This is a good time to be doing this since all the restaurants are closed due to the pandemic. But still, we’ve been wanting to do this.

So, what that means is that we go to one farmer’s market on Saturday morning and another on Sunday morning. We buy as much as we can at the farmer’s markets and then buy most of the rest at our local family-owned produce stand. They’ve been around for more than fifty years so they have a lot of relationships with farmers and the quality of food is very high. A few weeks ago they already had the multicolored heirloom organic cherry tomatoes I bought all last summer at the farmer’s market, and at a lower price. And if there’s a surplus of gourmet mushrooms, I can buy hen-of-the-woods and trumpet mushrooms and a box with a whole mix of interesting mushrooms for $1.99 instead of $7.99.

Yes, we still buy some things at natural food stores and even a couple of items at the supermarket, but that list is getting smaller and smaller. We even buy our brown rice directly from the grower now, in big brown 20 lb bags that are delivered to our door. Or we go for an hour’s drive down to the really big farmer’s market in Marin county, and pick up a bag there.

And then it’s up to me to take these beautiful ingredients grown with love and prepare our meals.

So there is the rhythm of the farmer’s markets and the rhythm of the meals. And attention on cooking the rice and cooking the beans and roasting the beets and washing the lettuce, so when mealtime comes, my foods are waiting for me to assemble them.

And now there is also the rhythm of turning the vegetable scraps into stock, so we get the whole of their nutrients.

All of these steps of producing our food gives a structure to our lives that is very comforting to me. It empowers me to be self-determined about our food. We’re causatively feeding ourselves to our standards instead being effect of having our only options be what others are willing to provide.

I was prompted to write this post this morning as I was peeling the skins off small red beets. When i roasted them, I didn’t have time to peel them, so I just had put them in the refrigerator. Now, in the quiet of early morning, I was standing at the counter peeling beets—feeling their texture and shape in my hands as the peels slipped off, using my bird’s beak paring knife to cut away any rough spots.

I’m there with the food. I know what the whole food looks like, with all the little roots along the beets and the greens at the top. I know what part of the plant I am eating, and I also eat the greens (which are actually sweet!). To me a beet is a living plant, not something cooked out of a can.

In that moment I was feeling connected to the food I eat. I can see the foods in the ecosystem I am part of and I know my place is to prepare the food to nourish myself and my family.

It’s a lovely thing to revolve one’s life around. I’m happy I made the decision to do this.

Getting to know the food, getting to know the ecosystem, getting to know my farmers, learning about each food, choosing fruits that are ripe, learning how to use my knives and other simple cooking tools, learning to be more aware as a cook and using all my senses—all these things are such a joy.

They are the stuff of life that we miss when all our food comes in boxes and cans and take-out containers.

I just walked over to the beans to check to see if they were done. Of course they were. I knew it was the right time. No timer needed. They were perfect. Of course.