I’ve done it so often and I’m willing to bet you have, too. I’ll be eating a piece of toast with one hand and checking Facebook with the other, whilst discussing homework with my younger son and arranging car-sharing arrangements with my older one. I look down and discover there’s suddenly no toast left on my plate. How did that happen? Damn. I’d better have another slice, then. Sound familiar?
It’s easy in the midst of a busy life to let food come and go without much attention, but the problem is we invariably end up eating too much simply because we haven’t savoured – or even noticed – what we were eating. I ate that second piece of toast not because I was still hungry, but because I felt dissatisfied. I hadn’t been aware of the first slipping down.
All that is starting to change for me, though, since I received a copy of the Mindfulness Cookbook. Mindfulness – to simplify it massively – is about staying in the moment, noticing what goes on around you, and reaching a level of acceptance of things as they are right now. It’s accompanied by meditation techniques which involve being aware of your breath as it goes in and out of your body, and accepting and releasing the hundreds of thoughts that constantly race across our frazzled minds.
The Mindfulness Cookbook by Dr Patrizia Collard and Helen Stephenson harnesses these techniques and applies them to food. The book teaches a few basic mindfulness and meditation techniques, but goes much further. It shows you how to cook and eat mindfully, noticing the appearance, texture, smell and taste of the food, both while you prepare and while you eat it. It reminds you to be aware of your body and how you feel as you eat, and to note when you’re getting full.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that mindful eating has transformed my eating habits. I did a mindfulness course last year but found this aspect of the practice one of the hardest. I’m so used to thinking about other things when I eat that my mind is rarely fully on what is on my plate and in my mouth. As I worked my way through this book and tried my hand at the imaginatively-flavoured dishes I started to wake up to the simple beauty of the materials I was working with and to enjoy the depths of flavour in a way that was new to me.
Each recipe suggests a few things to focus on as you prepare and eat it, but as you get used to being more mindful you need this less and less. The recipes themselves are terrific. The highlight was the ricotta and maple syrup cheesecake (made by my teenage son) which was sensational, but everything we tried has been interesting and delicious. The recipes are divided into breakfast, lunches, dinners and mindful treats (which the authors encourage you to eat, in moderation, and mindfully) and there are some recipes for vegetarians (though it’s far from a vegetarian book).
I’m not trying to lose weight, but I can see how this book could really help you if you are. And if you’re just trying to eat a bit more healthily and enjoy your food a little more, this is definitely the book for you.
Do you eat mindfully or is your mind as much on your phone or your family as it is on your plate?
The Mindfulness Cookbook is published by Hamlyn and retails at £9.99.
Note: I was given the book for review purposes but my review is independent and honest.