The adroit meme that explained “Nature has sent us all to our Rooms”, says it all. Desperately nagging at us for some time now, Nature is demanding change, a chance to reset. Our busy, consumer driven lives, have come severely out of balance, in a world that counts profit over people and planet. We have lost ourselves (an elderly neighbour stopped me in my tracks to tell me that I would meet myself coming back one day) lost sight of what we truly need in our misdirected search for more of what we don’t need (of which there is never enough). So, here we are in our rooms, reflecting and learning in Nature’s soulful classroom.
Kitchen therapy takes the lessons from Nature as its basis for theory and practice. The first lesson is that food is fundamentally about love. She teaches that whilst the parent feeds their infant’s belly, that infant will also ask to be held, skin to skin please, whilst eyes are locked into what is known as the ‘maternal gaze’. A gaze so potent that its ‘milk’ wires our brain and feeds our soul, our gut designed to feel the fullness of complete care. Romanian orphans who were not left hungry but denied human contact, attention and love, bare witness to the complete system of care in lesson one.
The second lesson appears as we take hold of our own spoon and begin to feed ourselves. Children want to be involved and begin cooking as much as they want to become themselves – a person who can act, choose and think independently, within the supported environment of the family. This harks back to our first ancestors who found out how to use fire to make food and made us into human beings. Again, this is a complete process. Whilst the motivation is to feed our bodies, the sense of satisfaction comes from connecting with others, with our own creative, resourceful natures, and with the world of ingredients that supports us. Most importantly though, our ancestors worked together, bringing hunted and gathered foods to prepare and share. The act of cooking, and its provenance, forms the earliest basis for communication, connecting us around the campfire, where we feel complete.
It is this cooperation and equality around the campfire/watering hole that informs Kitchen Therapy. Our competitive, greedier drives have been exploited in our fuel focused world, that fills its belly with stuff, forgetting about the feelings that truly sustain us, long after the meal is gone. I wonder if Nature is hoping to reconnect us with our shared reality on this planet, our profound interconnection and the need we have for each other. A need that has been hijacked in the race for stuff, stuff and more stuff. The speed at which people have come together, offering help and getting involved in their local communities, plays testament to how willing and ready to listen and learn.
A clip on one of my feeds just said “… it puts humans in perspective, locked in their homes, is it sending us a mess age, the earth, water and sky are fine without you, when you come back remember, you are my guests not my masters.” It is sad to see how our competitive narratives trip off the tongue with messages like “We are going to beat this!!” No, we are not going to win against Nature, and I am not sure she sees herself in a battle with us. She wants us to sit up and listen, recognise our limited power, the reality that people trump profit. I am struck by how she’s laid on this amazing sunshine to strengthen our immune systems. How all around us are immune supporting resources like wild garlic and nettles. Nature has not abandoned us. Yes, she is wielding her power, but all she asks really is our attention, to sit back and see beyond our own limited lives.
Nettles. Whilst in my room, I have been learning from nettles. Those that know have been extolling their nutrition rich virtues for some time now, all I could connect with was a menacing, apparently worthy, weed. As my students often have their struggles with greens such as celery, only able to remember the fibrous, watery crunch, it is about asking them to get to know the ingredient, how it tics, what it has to offer. Just like a person whom we take a dislike to, who seemed spikey. If we take the time to find out, we normally discover something about them that we connect with and maybe wonder about what vulnerability they are protecting behind the spikes.
Getting to know stinging nettles has been just like this for me. Lurking in rampant vibrancy behind my studio in a guilty mess of unused space, these nutrition packed ninjas were just waiting to be discovered! Their sting is not the one my childhood self remembers, and is soon managed with respectful gloves and melts under the care of being cooked quickly in boiling water, or slowly in the drying heat of the sun, thereby stored for later months.
Nettle’s sting, that lasts long into the next day, reminds me of how sharply we can turn if someone comes in too close, without us feeling ready. I know with clients that a mistimed question, can leave me feeling the smart of their hurt for some days as I work through its meaning. The question is of course, what precious part of ourselves are we protecting with our sting? What lays beneath those sharp words that ward people off?
I cannot tell you the pleasure it has been to open into my ancestor’s recipe book, medicine cabinet and outside larder by ‘discovering’ how to use nettles. Breakfast braised in butter, with mushrooms, wild garlic, lunch simmered into soup, supper palled with walnuts for pesto toast, an enticing play mate who has been patiently waiting for me to learn how to relate to.
As the shops are a tad daunting, not to mention, slightly empty, our feelings of loss and fear for the future are triggered. Nature does need us to learn a lesson or two. To rekindle a respectful relationship to her. To remember who we are, loving, cooperative and creative little creatures who’ve lost their way in a crazed, consumerist world.
Being in our rooms, finding what there is there to play with, reminds us of Nature’s supportive abundance, hidden at the back of our secret, guilty garden…