Five Tips for Feeling Empowered in the Kitchen, from Kripalu’s Executive Chef

by Kimberly Jordan Allen

Food plays a powerful role in our lives—individually and collectively. It represents regions, traditions, ancestors, healing, and wisdom. We pass down our favorite recipes, make cooking a shared endeavor with loved ones, and come together at meals to be nourished with both food and company.

But in an age of speed, disconnection, and packaged convenience, spending time in the kitchen and at the table has become increasingly rare.

“For years, we’ve been subjected to marketing messages telling us that we shouldn’t be cooking, we should be going for the easy answer—fast food and processed food,” says Kripalu Executive Chef Jeremy Rock Smith, author of The Kripalu Kitchen: Nourishing Food for Body and Soul. “But cooking for ourselves is empowering, and it’s way better for us.”

That’s easier said than done for those of us who find cooking intimidating as well as time consuming. In our Instagram-fueled foodie culture, it sometimes feels safer to give up and order in, rather than competing with photo-worthy culinary creations. But Jeremy says we need to let go of the idea that every meal has to be a masterpiece.

“Our guests at Kripalu tell us all the time how incredible the food is, and how they could never make these meals at home,” he says. “But nothing could be farther from the truth. When I’m prepping a meal in the Kripalu Kitchen, for the most part, each dish has maybe five ingredients and some seasoning. It’s delicious, and it’s also really simple.”

Here are Jeremy’s tips for feeling more empowered in the kitchen.

  • Practice beginner’s mind. “Just like with yoga, we need to start where we are,” says Jeremy. “And that means committing to something that’s attainable right now, and seeing how it grows and evolves. It’s baby steps. If you’re not cooking at all right now, maybe commit to cooking one night a week.” Let go of expectations and stay open to learning—it will make cooking a lot more enjoyable. 
  • Think globally, cook locally. Supporting local farmers and food purveyors creates and supports sustainable systems in your area. It is also a great way to let the season influence your meal prep. What’s on sale at the local farmer’s market? Growers are always willing to share ideas for what to make with their beautiful ingredients.
  • Be in the moment. When we get completely absorbed in the activity of cooking, we experience the pleasure of being in the zone, as with any creative and meaningful activity. Let cooking be a meditation in motion.
  • Include loved ones. “ Sometimes people, parents especially, feel like short-order cooks, having to serve each individual’s needs,” says Jeremy. “But when we involve others in the process, they get to participate in their own nourishment. Get kids involved from a young age by teaching them to prepare foods they love.”
  • Set your intention. A little bit of intention goes a long way. When cooking, try infusing the process, and the food, with positive energy and a sense of pride and ownership. “Even washing the dishes is part of the practice of nourishing my family,” says Jeremy. When we cook with love and generosity of spirit, we reap the benefits—on our plates and in our lives.

Kimberly Jordan Allen is an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist.