Other cultures give us a new perspective on health & well-being. They can open our minds to how we cook, consume, and connect with our food, so when my dad’s fiance invited me to try a hot pot, I was more than excited to try something new. I expected to walk away from the dinner feeling overly stuffed, content, and sleepy. Instead, I walked away feeling rejuvenated, with a newfound determination to practice mindful eating more often.
My dad’s fiance grew up in Beijing, and said that hot pots were a traditional East Asian dish that her family often enjoyed. Usually when people get together for dinner, the dinner is already prepared, ready for us to chow down without anyone, besides the chef, needing to consider the time and energy that went into cooking the food. When we all sat down for this dinner, however, the process of cooking had only begun. There was a hot pot boiling with oil and water, and plates set up with various vegetables and tofu. Every person at the table was a part of the process; we were all adding ingredients, tasting small portions of the dish as we cooked, and sipping some tea or wine, enjoying each other’s company and connecting with our food. It was a laid back, friendly experience that taught me some lessons in mindful eating:
- Enjoy the process: Cooking is an art. Whenever you create a dish, you are creating something that will nourish and sustain you. In a way, the energy you put into that dish will in turn come back to you. If you are stressed or in a rush, the food you create for yourself will tend to reflect that mood. So slow down. Take a deep breath and enjoy the process of nourishing yourself. Tasting small portions of your dish while you cook staves off hunger, allowing you to enjoy the process without becoming impatient or… hangry.
- Slow down: Eating with chopsticks forced me to eat slower than if I had a spoon ready to shovel heaps of food in my mouth, which enabled me savor each bite as I was experiencing it. Eating slow helps you connect with and appreciate your meal, as well as aids in digestion and weight loss, as it gives our bodies enough time to release hormones that let us know when we’re full. When you’re not eating with chopsticks (or if you’re a pro at using them), take a moment at each meal to take breaks between your bites and feel gratitude for the food you’re feeding yourself.
- Try new things: Our bodies love variety. Different foods will offer different nutritional health benefits, so it’s important that we don’t get in a rut of eating the same ingredients. There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world (pfaf.org). Go to your local market and search for ingredients that you’ve never tried before, and then search for a recipe that uses them. If you’re out to eat, look for something on the menu that you’ve never considered before.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s how to Hot Pot:
- Sesame oil
- Mushrooms (all different kinds)
- Shredded tofu
- Snow peas
- Black fungus
- Cubed tofu
- Rice Noodles
- Spicy sesame seed oil
- Soy Sauce
- Take your time- gather your loved ones around a hot pot and add hot water with sesame oil until it is 2/3 full.
- Give each person a bowl to mix their own sauce. Allow them to choose the proportions of ingredients they’d like to use.
- Slowly add each ingredient into the hot pot, trying small portions of the dish in your sauce bowl every time a new ingredient is added (it generally took 3-5 minutes for each ingredient to cook, but 7 minutes for the tofu and black fungus).
- When all ingredients are added to the pot, fill your sauce bowl back up and enjoy!
No matter what dish you’re preparing, there is always something that can be learned when you E m b r a c e and C r e a t e opportunities to try new things.