I have found
that making delicious, nutritious food is a delightful and rewarding process. I don’t like rules, because they can be arbitrary and by their very nature provoke insurgence from any rebellious soul. I stand by principles, however. To me, principles operate like laws of nature. There isn’t any moral value in gravity working, nor is there a question about whether it will work or not; it just does. Following are some key guiding principles that I believe apply to food preparation and beyond. Making use of these principles in a conscious way will make the food taste better!
Energy has a taste.
Have you ever eaten food prepared by someone who was in a foul mood as they interacted with the food? Did it taste good? Or was it bitter or harsh tasting? How about the opposite? Have you eaten something that was prepared by someone who brought joyful energy to the task? How did that food taste? The energy with which we do anything permeates that thing with its nature. This is the most important principle to understand and embody in order to make tasty food or really to create anything that will have a positive impact in the world. Given that I know my energy cannot be hidden in the final product, but will be revealed for all to taste, I choose to infuse the food I prepare with the energy of love. And how does the energy of love taste? It Tastes Like Love!
Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.
This principle was stated by George Washington Carver and is a favorite of a former mentor of mine. If we love something, we pay attention to it. We are curious about it. We listen to it and we observe it. We take time to be present with it. We notice what is wonderful about it, and we offer appreciations. If we love it enough, we make a commitment to it, and we faithfully honor that commitment over time. When we find out disturbing or unsettling things about that which we love, we lean into our love for it so we can re-cultivate a sense of connection. Through this process of paying attention, being curious, listening and observing, taking time, being present, praising the good, making a commitment, and coming back to the love when we feel separate, we do learn so much about the object of our love. And by knowing our beloved more deeply and understanding its secrets, we are able to interact with it in effective ways that result in bounteous expressions of good.
I love preparing, serving, and eating delicious, nutritious food, and this love comes naturally to me. Because I love it, I pay attention to the vegetables, the herbs, the fruits. I understand little secrets that have come to me over time, so when I go to market I can select fruits and vegetables that taste the best. Because I love it, I take the time to be present, to smell, to feel, to intuit. Because I love it, I get curious. Will this taste good with that? Or with that? Because I love it, I notice and appreciate the delicious creations that come through. And because I love it, I feel inspired to share this love with others.
But what if one doesn’t love food preparation, I hear some readers object! My suggestion is to start with willingness. Are you willing to learn to love food preparation? Declare your willingness! Are you open to the possibility? Cultivate that possibility by seeing your future self in pure delight as you create delicious nourishing dishes. Is there some small thing about food prep that you do love? Maybe you like to make smoothies in your blender or mash up an avocado for guacamole. Start with what you love and grow your love from there. Set your intention to learn to love food prep, and you will move in that direction. You will find that as you love it more, the food starts tasting better, and you will be carried into a delightful feedback loop in which love feeds more love. Through that increase of love, you too will learn the secrets of food prep and your food will demonstrate that knowing.
We are always at choice.
 At every moment in time we have the capacity to make an infinite number of choices. We can choose to do what we did before, or some variation of it, or something entirely new. We may be out of touch with that choice, but it is always only a conscious thought away. This is as true for food preparation as for any other area of life. I see recipes as suggestions, inspiration, and options, not as dictates that must be followed rigidly. The recipes in this book are meant to be a starting point for your authentic creative expression. When you make choices to follow the guidance you receive because of the love you have for the food, you may stray significantly from the recipe as written. By paying attention to what you love, you will almost certainly notice that food tastes better when it is fresh and in season, for example. Therefore, if you are making a fruit salad that calls for apricots and when you go to the store discover that the apricots were grown in the other hemisphere and are hard with no fragrance, you will make a choice to substitute the delightful ripe pears that you started smelling the moment you walked into the produce department. You are always at choice and the recipes are a starting place. Be creative, flexible, spontaneous, and bold!
Junk in junk out.
This saying is often used to refer to data, but since it is a principle, it also applies to food preparation. My second most powerful secret for making food delicious, after “energy has a taste,” is to use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients that I can find. When you are shopping for food or picking it from your garden, use as many senses as possible. Touch it, smell it, observe it, listen to it. Look for vegetables that are plump and tender rather than dried up and woody. Choose fruits that are fragrant and have good color. Learn the sounds of ripe melons. Learn the feel of young root crops. Grow or purchase and use fresh herbs, and lots of them. If you must use herbs out of season, consider freezing cubes of herbs when they are in season instead of using shriveled up old dried herbs! Buy whole spices in small quantities and grind what you need. Perk up a dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, not the kind that comes from a bottle. Use whole foods, minimally processed. Purchase organic food for the best flavor, sustainability, and health value. If something gets too old, find an alternate use for it rather than spoiling your good food with junk. For example you can use wilted or dried up produce in vegetable stock, or give it to your worms or your garden.
Starting with high-quality food gives you a great head start and is the first of my two part equation: “start with good food and don’t wreck it.” After you have taken the time to use your love and your choice to select fresh, whole, nutritious food, prepare it in ways that enhance and compliment the fresh, high quality food you have. A few tips for “not wrecking it” include serving most vegetables raw or lightly cooked, combining flavors that complement each other without putting too many different flavors in any one dish, and adding salt, salty condiments, and oils sparingly. Remember you can always add more of something but generally cannot take it out once added. When I’m creating in the kitchen I often have a tiny testing bowl in which I can put a spoonful of something and add an herb, spice, or other addition. Then I taste the dish to determine if my proposed addition will work well in it or not.
Blessing food has a tangible impact on its vitality.
I remember hearing many years ago about a study that demonstrated that blessing food before eating it results in a measurable, statistically-significant increase in nutrients. I don’t know if the information I heard was correct, but I do know that significant research confirms that the regular practice of prayer confers health benefits on the person praying. In the studies, the beliefs and specific practices of the person praying doesn’t matter; the act of blessing has the same impact regardless of particularities. So I consider my household’s communal practice of having a moment of silence followed by a verbal New Thought style prayer a suitable blessing, and I also consider my quick “Thank you for this delicious food” an appropriate prayer when I’m on the run. Words are not even necessary for it to be a blessing: sometimes it’s enough just to breathe in the fragrance of the food for a moment with a feeling of gratitude in my heart. In my adult son’s home, they bless each meal with a high five over the food, and I have no doubt that this blessing enhances the experience of eating as well.
One of the most powerful experiments I ever encountered regarding the act of blessing and its impact on the nutritional value of food involved some rabbits on a high cholesterol diet. As vegans, rabbits do not normally encounter cholesterol in their diet. This group of rabbits was being fed cholesterol as part of an experiment about heart disease. There was a surprise at the end of the study; one group of rabbits had not developed heart disease even though they had been fed the exact same diet as the others. It turned out that the person in charge of this healthy group of rabbits was petting and cuddling the rabbits and talking to them lovingly each time she fed them the toxic food. It seems that this act of “blessing” somehow created a different metabolic experience for the cuddled rabbits, an experience that resulted in vitality in spite of eating the same foods that were killing the other rabbits!
And while I have never seen studies about flavor improvements based on blessing, I absolutely believe it is true from my experience. The first time I experienced the difference that blessing could make on taste was when I was about 15 years old. My family was helping out a friend by selling a bunch of pumpkins he had grown. We would take a truckload of pumpkins into the center of a nearby town and sell them to people out of the back of the truck. One day we had a significant amount of pumpkins left when we were ready to go home. We gave them to a Hare Krishna group that was chanting in the park.
A few days later when we returned to the city where we had encountered the Hare Krishna devotees, we gratefully accepted the free meal they were offering, and part of the meal was the pumpkins. Now these were not Sugar Pie pumpkins. They were Halloween-style pumpkins that I had tried unsuccessfully to prepare for consumption in many ways. They just didn’t taste good. On that day in the park with the Hare Krishnas, I found to my surprise that the pumpkin dish they served, made from the very pumpkins that had completely stumped my considerable culinary capacities, tasted absolutely delicious! When I asked the cook the secret, she put her index finger up in the air and said she had made the dish for that One and had given Him the first taste. That was a lesson I will always remember. So although I stand by the importance of selecting fresh produce with naturally-obtained deliciousness, when that is not possible the food can still be made whole with a blessing.
Our thoughts are creative.
The final principle for fabulous flavor is a truth that has been known and written about by sages and teachers from ancient times through today. This principle has many variations: “What you think about comes about,” “Whatever you focus your attention on grows in your experience,” “Thoughts become things,” “Every idea in consciousness finds its corresponding expression in the physical world,” “Cause and effect,” etc. When I say that our thoughts are creative, I’m not talking about creativity in the artistic sense, though that can be true as well. What I am pointing out is that things that we experience and create in the world start out with thoughts. I cannot make a delightful five-course Asian California Fusion meal without starting with some idea in my mind. I cannot make endless varieties of nourishing salads or raw whole foods desserts or new flavors of live sauerkraut without first having an inspiration.
It is also true that I cannot make a spectacularly failed pot of soup or batch of muffins without first having this thought in mind! For example, on the few occasions on which I have made a dish or a meal that was truly awful, I can always trace the origins of that mess back to a thought or series of thoughts. Typically when this has happened, my ego was engaged in trying to impress a person or group and I started entertaining fears of disaster. Instead of moving my mind back to love and aligning my consciousness with the possibility of deliciousness, I have allowed my mind to fixate on the possibility of failure. I have worried and fretted, therefore infusing the food with the energy of worry, fret and fear. No wonder the food tasted less than spectacular!
I have proved this principle to myself so many times that I trust it implicitly. I encourage you to give it a try and see if your experience doesn’t replicate mine. Just remember to discipline your mind, keeping your thoughts on the beautiful, powerfully nutritious, scrumptious food you are preparing, and hold a vision of it done. See yourself in joy as you nourish yourself and all life by preparing and consuming the fruits and veggies of the earth!
One of my editors pointed out that the phrase “we are always at choice” is not standard English. This phrase is a statement of principle that would most likely be familiar, however, to people who study New Thought metaphysics or similar philosophies, and to those who have been exposed to popular culture figures who have been influenced by these movements. After my editor made this observation, I did consider changing it to something like “we always have a choice.” For me, however, there is more power in the original phrasing. It has an immediacy that is lacking for me in the standard English version. The phrase “we are always at choice” conjures up a mental image of this now moment, this point in time, this place where I am in consciousness right now. In this place, I am always at a point of choice. Acknowledging that I “have” a choice, does not call me up to the same level of accountability as knowing that I am making a choice in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment, and that each of these choice points is a place of tremendous potential power. What will you do with the power of your choice of this now moment?
 See, for example, Kenneth F. Ferraro and Cynthia M. Albrecht-Jensen, “Does Religion Influence Adult Health?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30, no. 2 (1991): 193-202, (accessed September 16, 2016.); or Richard Shiffman, “The Blog: Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t,” Huffington Post, January 18, 2012, (accessed September 16, 2016).
 Robert M. Nerem, Murina J. Levesque, and J. Fredrick Cornhill, “Social Environment as a Factor in Diet-induced Atherosclerosis,” Science 208, no. 4451 (1980): 1475-1476, cited in “Study Shows Cuddling of Bunnies Helps Keep Their Arteries Clear,” Ocala Star-Banner, April 13, 1980, (accessed September 16, 2016).