Cooking by the Pinch and the Handful

Cooking by the Pinch and the Handful

Love Mudra - Jennifer Haithcock

Our senses are our own perfect signaling instruments, our hands are our own perfect measure.

A friend of mine is a priest, poet, weaver, and founder of a sustainable fashion company beneficial to earth and humanity with goods that are said to wear better, look better, and travel better because they are handmade.

It sounds poetic, a reminder to return to the personal, or the spirituality of slow living, but Father Andrew proves it by producing uniquely beautiful clothes known for their comfort and fit.

We are often led to believe that the quality of a product improves with the advancement of technology. Yet weaving, dyeing, and sewing clothes by hand gives them a look and a fit that industrial production can’t match. In this world that has become so technical and scientific, enumerated and measured, I find this quietly reassuring. There is a relief in knowing that a human weave is more human than a robot’s, that handmade is more than just a charming throwback, and that our own hands are still our own best measure.

This reminds me of Ayurveda and its foundational principle that good health is built on good digestion, and that the best meals for optimal digestion are made at home with your own hands. With a home-cooked meal, you get the quality of hand-selected ingredients, the freshness of hand-picked harvests, and the healing balance of a hand-tailored meal. Which is a lot like saying handmade meals wear better. They make us more comfortable and fit.

Using fewer measuring cups, spoons, and gadgets in your kitchen and cooking instead by the pinch, by the handful, by eyeballing, by tasting, by intuition, and by trust nourishes the soul, and I believe makes your meals taste better.

This is how we are designed. To be drawn into nature’s bounty through our senses and to feel, smell, taste our way to radiant wellness. Our senses are instruments of intelligence beautifully designed to communicate with the brain and belly to seek foods that will nourish and balance.

So when you use your hands to cook, the feel of the food is more than a pleasure in itself; it is the start of a signaling loop with digestion and assimilation. Toss a salad with your hands, for example, and you feel its lightness; it may also be slightly cool and a bit moist. Your gut will respond by producing the enzymes necessary to digest the energies of cold, light, and damp.

The beauty of this loop is that your digestion, in turn, will send signals to your brain to supplement or dress the dish with ingredients that create the balance your body needs: avocado slices, roasted root vegetables, or sunflower seeds for grounding, or something sour like lemon juice, or a pinch of pungency as in ginger or black pepper to fuel digestion.

If our senses are our own perfect signaling instruments, our hands are our own perfect measure. Open the palm of one hand, and pour into it 1/8 teaspoon of spice. Notice the size of the grains, the amount of space it takes up, the way it feels in your hand. Pick it up with the fingers of your other hand. How many fingers does it take to scoop it all up in a pinch? I can pinch 1/8 teaspoon of spice with my index and middle finger pressed against my thumb—a three-finger pinch. An amount of 1/4 teaspoon might need four fingers—a ring finger added—or it might take two generous pinches.

Look at your hands when you cup them together. It makes the shape of a heart. Called an anjali, meaning “an offering.” It is said in Ayurveda to be the proper measure of a meal. Since people of different sizes will have different size hands, amounts will vary from person to person, but each will be right for that person. An anjali, therefore, is a natural way of using your hands for your own perfect measure.

Look, listen, touch, hold, tear, mash, knead, smell, sip, savor, taste, and create by your own two hands, your own five senses, your own singular intuition. You are so inherently intelligent that there is every likelihood that what looks, feels, smells, and tastes appealing, especially when you close your eyes and feel it in every cell of your being, is exactly what your body needs in the moment.

Cooking with your own two hands cultivates the art of being fully present, and an intimate relationship with the edible bounty of nature. Whether that is the delight of peeling a juicy mango, tearing leaves instead of chopping, or measuring spices with your fingers, there is a covenant we have with nature. It is a sacred bond, and it is there in your own two hands.

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