Even the mundane chores of grocery shopping and cooking can be occasions of grace this Lent.
It’s hard to plan and prepare meals every day, seven days a week, all year round! Whether we live alone or with our family, it’s impossible to escape culinary obligations. Yet feeding ourselves is far from being a chore: It’s a pleasure for the body that also delights the soul.
By eating, we regain strength and energy. Relaxing our bodies makes us disposed to listen and relate to others. By cooking, we not only nourish our bodies but also exchange and share our traditions and our love.
Since this year we’re continuing to spend more time at home, Lent offers a golden opportunity to put joy into our daily tasks, starting with cooking.
1Make working in the kitchen a language of love
Different people have different ways of expressing their feelings. For some people, the most comfortable way of showing love and affection is by cooking. A grandchild’s favorite soup or a spouse’s favorite dessert can be ways of saying “I love you” and sharing a moment of pleasurable giving and receiving.
When we cut up fresh vegetables for a colorful salad even though we feel tired, we let our guests know that we love them. Cooking is an opportunity for us to forget ourselves and give freely to others—and this giving brings joy.
While grocery shopping and while working in the kitchen, try to think of those you love. Also try to be available during meals (even if it means doing something simpler, perhaps by letting go and being less perfectionistic). Make meal preparation an opportunity to be present and give yourself in a different way.
2Make Laudato Si' cuisine, respectful of humanity and the environment
What if we were to buy fewer processed foods and more basic, whole foods that are locally sourced? Respecting nature in the kitchen often implies a kind of conversion. It includes both our choice of products and the way we prepare them without wasting food, while also saving resources (water, energy).
Spend a little more time than usual preparing meals. Buy unprocessed foods and prepare them yourself. After 40 days, write down how much you’ve saved and donate the money to charity.
3Vary colors and tastes
People who cook every day have a “magic power” of uplifting the moods of those they cook for. By applying a few simple formulas, we can break the monotony of routine.
Home cooks can vary the recipes according to the seasons, vary the seasonings (oils, spices, aromatic herbs …), vary the colors (who said that carrots were only orange, when there are violet and white ones?), vary the preparation methods (potatoes can be served steamed, sautéed, au gratin, in an omelette, baked …).
Change up your usual recipes. Ask neighbors, friends and family how they prepare everyday dishes. While cooking according to their recipes, give thanks for them, and ask the Lord to bless them and answer their prayers.
4Don't bear the burden of preparing meals alone
In a family, everyone can share responsibility for the meals. Parents can make sure that the cupboards are full, to begin with, while children can give input on the menu and help prepare the food according to their abilities. Everyone can take part in his or her own way.
By involving everyone, the work becomes a common effort. Eating the resulting meal becomes a truly shared pleasure.
Involve the household in the preparation of meals. Participation can be very simple (for example, garnishing a dish by sprinkling chopped parsley on baked potatoes), but even so it brings the family together as a team. Isn’t it in the kitchen, when everyone’s busy, that we form special bonds and share stories and laughter?
5Make it an opportunity to pray
Our life is made up of many tasks that we did not choose. We can accomplish them willingly and as quickly as possible, or we can grumble and drag our feet. Yet let’s recall that these tasks are an opportunity for us to choose to be aware of the Lord’s presence.
We don’t have to recite verbal prayers constantly, such as praying the Rosary while stirring sauce and reading a recipe. But we can unite ourselves to God through little prayers.
We can entrust to Him those for whom we’re preparing the meal (without forgetting ourselves!), name people for whom we want to pray, sing, listen to music, and give God thanks for His blessings.
Let God’s light enter the kitchen. While applying ourselves to what we’re doing, we can let the Lord bring joy to our hearts.