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Meditations on Garlic
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Meditations on Garlic

A Culinary Connection to Self

Words by Nicole Ziza Bauer
Illustration by Melanie Loon

Sep. 19, 2018

Guest edited by   Nicole Ziza Bauer

Editor’s Note: Contributor Nicole Ziza Bauer has been a strong voice in the Life & Thyme community for some time, and when we decided to pursue a Guest Editor series, we knew she’d have something powerful to say. Ziza brings readers a curated collection that explore a topic to which we can all relate: being overwhelmed. Over the course of four weeks, we’ll share stories about using food as the foil to that feeling. About how something as simple as enjoying, cooking, or considering a meal can help us recalibrate, re-center, and rediscover the joy of eating—and reclaim ourselves.

There’s a spaceand I hope I never lose itbetween seeing and noticing. Between having senses and using them. It’s a space that’s hard to quantify because it’s different for every persona space where efficiency comes second to expression. Where there’s no judge, no interference. It’s the only space in which pure creativity can live. Some might call it art.

For me, that space exists somewhere between six and eight p.m., when my fingers switch from a hot keypad to smooth acacia wood where a garlic bulb splinters under the weight of my palm, its tacky juice giving way to a peppery, spicy aroma. I’m not a chef; but I am hungrynot only for dinner, but for something that feels real. For the way a bite of cheese melts on my tongue and for the moment when a wine cork’s squeak serves as the whistle that it’s time to stop. Click my pen. Fold the screen.

It’s time to cook.

***

There’s a magic to food, and it’s not just specific to those who work in the industry or take the ultimate pleasure in the things we eat. It’s not about an inherent goodness or badness of technology, but in the way a screen can only command a finger’s twitch or the dart of an eye. Working from home and being at a computer most of the time, I sometimes go hours without having moved. I’m in pursuit of productivity, pouring myself into all of my days. Foodeating, cookingchanges that. I come back to Me, replenishing my mental and physical resources on an elemental level.

First, I smell again. Rubbing the earth from a mushroom or zesting a lemon until it’s white, the air around me transforms. Next, I listen. How fast are those bubbles bursting? Does that sizzle sound too hot? I’m engagedlooking all over the kitchen, arms reaching, legs balancing. Rocking back and forth, I chop, scooping heavy chunks of potato in my hands. I oil them up and slide them onto a pan. Soon, I’ll smell those roasting too.

There’s very little that could be said about food that hasn’t already been said. So when invited by Life & Thyme to serve as Guest Editor for the month, I knew my aim wasn’t to drastically reinvent the platform or premise of food writing. Instead, I wanted to carve out space and remind others why food fundamentally matters to us, revealing the subtle and not-so-subtle ways it keeps us whole, sustained and connected.

In our world of now, anxietywith a capital Ais a constant. For every generation. For every culture in all corners of the globe. But food can help us fight all that; it can be the foil to what overwhelms. It reminds us we are not self-sustaining, but are particles of a larger organismthat we must be fed in order to function and to really feel. When we stop to eat, we stop to care. Seasons and cycles are always changing, yet there’s always something new to put on a plate. It matters just as much to cook for many as it does to cook for oneto commune with ourselves as well as our communities. And the stories of growers, chefs and diners knit us to an intrinsic human websomething technology, for all its wonders, truly has yet to mimic.

***

It started on my phone. I was looking for something that would, ironically, encourage me to be on my phone less when I scrolled upon Myra Lewin’s “Everyday Ayurveda and Yoga” podcast. Lewin was diagnosed with “incurable” rheumatoid arthritis at age thirty. She had been working as a vice president in charge of IT in pharmaceutical distribution back “when the term IT first came about.”

Although her work was going well, it wasn’t really satisfying her. She started meditating, and that touched her deeply. “It felt as if I was stepping into my life for the first time,” she says. “My first yoga teacher exposed me to Ayurveda, and I found it too complicated at first. Ghee and a few dietary changes changed my body dramatically, and how I felt mentally improved. I was sold.”

Although the scope of Ayurveda can be vast“as big as life,” Lewin saysthe results she saw after a few small but steady changes were enough for her to make it the foundation of her living. Three decades later, Lewin is the founder and director of Hale Pule, an Ayurvedic retreat and training center on the island of Kaua’i. She’s also rheumatoid arthritis-free.

“Wellness is the feeling and knowing that all is well,” she tells me. “We like to think of a complete absence of physical symptoms as good health, but we also need to be at peace inside, without fear, and have the knowing that all is well. This is sattvabalance, harmony and the light of our consciousness.”

Most clients find Lewin and come to Hale Pule as a result of digestive disturbances, she explains, and also because they’re feeling mentally unstable. We’re sleeping too little and thinking too much; this coupled with poor eating and too many electronics can “drive us away from ourselves, into tamas, the darkness.” Lewin’s program is about shining a light on that disconnectto help her students rediscover themselves apart from that which can numb or distract.

“Itʻs important that we recognize technology as a tool and not who we are,” Lewin points out, as someone who once made a living helping to implement technology for companies. “We need to have some time each day away from the electronics to allow our systems to be in balance. This would mean moving away from the computer … having some time outside with trees and nature. The body and mind naturally want to move back to a state of balance; we only need to stop getting in the way and do things to cultivate our inner connection.”

This is my hope, and my challenge, for the monththat the stories you’ll read here every Wednesday for the next three weeks will prompt you out of your own way, in the way only food can. Through its growing, its eating, or even in its absence, food teaches us about life, and therefore our role in it. When it comes to cooking, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Frankly, we don’t even need to be good at it; we just need to let ourselves do it. We’ll recalibrate in such a place, in being with our senses.

It’s the ultimate default setting, really. With every meal, comes new opportunity to smash the bulb and taste the wine.

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