Saturday, March 13, 2010

International Cookbook Seed

For years now I have been simmering on the idea of a Colombian/Persian cookbook. This was an initial sketch of a fabulous cookbook idea started by Shahrzad Naficy and me back in 2003.

Photograph from Legion Of Honor Museum, SF

Shahrzad and I arrived at the idea of consciously cooking delicious meals while we were attending graduate school. She at Mills College and I at John F. Kennedy University indulged ourselves in expanding our minds to creative writing and psychology. We were living together and sharing a small kitchen while renting rooms from a warm English lady in Oakland. We had the idea of sharing our recipes with those that were interested in Persian and Colombian cooking.

We took cooking seriously. I hardly remember how we found the time to make our meals so special. We were both taught cooking from our aunts, mothers, and grandmothers. I had traveled extensively in Europe and had also been shown cooking secrets from friends’ mothers & grandmothers all through Spain, Italy, Germany, even Sweden. Knowing humans to be so visual and relational, we couldn't help but think of cooking traditions being passed through generations by word of mouth and demonstration through time as a something really sacred. We felt connected and vibrant during these years. We were on the cusp of an internal awakening.

Eating is as old as any living creature on our blue planet. Humans evolved great hunting cunning and tools to use from far away, increasing their yield. Eventually, agriculture and domestication of animals created cities and boosted populations. Cooking also evolved alongside these survival needs, today as an art, a creative venture, or sometimes simply a quick distraction to our busy technology-dominated lives. Cooking and eating have been integral to our cultures: deaths, births, weddings, showers, christenings, bat mitzvah, birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, Pagan Soltices, graduations, and celebrations honoring those returning from wars. Rituals bring us together, marking special transitions into the seasons and in our lives. She and I both were lovers of rituals which nourished our physical bodies and spirits. Food has had a bewitching power we cannot deny. Our relatives showed us that it's not only how you prepare the food, but the ever-pressing need that family has to be nourished in body and spirit, daily. This was a constant in both our homes of origin. Our inherited cuisine was not only important to us, but was a huge part of our personalities. Shahrzad and I were known to invite others for dinner parties, tea parties, hot chocolate late night candlelight, and movies with dinner. People gathered around us because we provided so much comfort.

Shahrzad and I wanted to share these special recipes with you because we believed they held the power of female love & gentle wisdom embodied and transmitted through generations. We were not only concerned with using organic produce, and organic meats wherever possible, but felt strongly about reducing our impact by living more in harmony with nature. We had seen the explosion of mono food and fast food culture in the United States; these practices certainly feed people, but they increase the use of toxic pesticides, damaging ecosystems on many levels, not to mention the negative impact of preserved and highly processed food on our bodies causing dis-ease. We found the Bay Area, to be a haven of individuals, vendors, businesses that had some awareness as to the power of the locally grown, slow food movement. Organic means fruit, vegetables and even meat that have been grown, planted, and harvested with intentions to replenish and do little harm to the Earth. Nature gives so abundantly and we wanted to be able to pass this wisdom on to future generations.

For these reasons, we supported local farmers. Yes, Earth first, even when shopping and cooking scrumptious dishes. As many of us are aware, nature has been decimated by man's over-use and population explosion, but only we can make better choices here in our daily journey that will have positive impact and change. Holding this focus of an abundant healthy ecosystem often takes a little effort to shift our attentions to a vision for the future. Organic food also happens to taste better, has more nutrients, and of course, costs a bit more than other produce. We found that we experienced the difference in the amount of peace and light which had been ingested by these foods and meats - grown and cared for with gentleness as nature intended it to be.

Conscious cooking happened at every step of the way for both of us. Your thoughts, feelings, and intentions are important. We recommend making peace with family members before beginning the cooking process. Clear your mind of disturbing thoughts and emotions that have occurred. I found that my mood affected and enhanced the food preparation and final flavor. Your mood makes all the difference to the anatomical cellular structure of living plants and meats. See this article on thought forms affecting water molecules: & For example, Shahrzad likes to create a gentle environment in the kitchen with small tea lights on the counter. She usually had flowers nearby which happened to be a wonderful place to keep her company while she was cooking. Of course, I have yet to have a bad-tasting meal with her. I would also give a small silent Sufi prayer for any meats about to be prepared. Honoring the flesh of another animal about to be consumed is essential, even as our modern culture has moved away from awareness to how meat is raised and slaughtered. The next place awareness happens is in the tools to be used. Shahrzad and I both agreed that sharp cutlery is important to have and invest in. Dull knives, especially with tomatoes, have a tendency to destroy too many of fine subtleties in the flavor by breaking up too many cells upon cutting. Another key factor we have observed is always cooking in iron or stainless steel pots. This iron cookware enhanced the taste of food...

Photograph from Legion Of Honor Museum, SF

My new vision for this International Cookbook today will include not only Persian and Colombian, but also other recipes from other nations. I will be posting here individual recipes from all over the world, including my personal thoughts on the art of cooking. These will be collected into a published cookbook that will accompany you on your journey into fabulous & nourishing meals!

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