The Kindness Diet
I think that when it comes to exploring different cultures, the experience of food is one of the most defining ways in which to do it. How people eat, what they eat, where they eat, why people have different kinds of dining etiquette, who they eat with and why is something that has always fascinated not only me but countless travellers throughout human history. And we carry our personalities into these experiences. The fussy eater seeks what they know and find comfort in, no matter where they go. The familiarity of a McDonald's sign in Marrakesh, Morocco is one that allows them the headspace of support to explore what they find exciting about the experience without having to compromise on their inherent preference for French fries and coke made how they like it. The adventurous eater explores everything available in local cuisine and is deeply engaged in the flavours, the difference in bite, the textures and of course the wide variety of what pleases human palates in different cultural contexts.
In my opinion, there is no wrong or right way to explore food, and I think that what is vital is to ensure a depth of presence in no matter your option. A method of being that I like to frame as the "Kindness Diet." The Kindness Diet is one that is grounded in meaningfulness, closely interlinked with the Japanese concept of Ikigai (pronounced ee-key-gai) -loosely translated- a reason and purpose for being. Ikigai is the convergence of four primary elements:
· What you love (your passion)
· What the world needs (your mission)
· What you are good at (your vocation)
· What you can get paid for (your profession)
Ikigai is personal, meaning that you decide what those four elements mean to you on an individual basis. Discovering your ikigai is said to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer.
So why is ikigai so important when it comes to food? At the core of what we desire with food and experiences around food is satisfaction. We taste, smell and touch food. We love to hear sounds that are associated with it, a bubbling pot, a sizzling pan and the hiss of steam. We want to see it shift consistency, a thin sauce gradually stirred until thickened and rich. We watch our loved ones move in grace, chopping, adding ingredients, lifting the lids of pots owned for years to check if the meal is progressing as planned or if changes need to it are required. Satisfaction and contentment when it comes to food is in itself the core of what brings us so much joy and fulfilment around it and its experience. It has inherent meaningfulness. Inherent ikigai.
The kindness diet begins with the self; it starts where you are — treating yourself and your body with the thoughtfulness and centeredness it deserves. A lot of us have internalized many messages about how we should eat, when and why. Some of these messages are great; however, a lot of them aren't. Starting at a space and frame of being that allows kindness for yourself in how, when, and what you eat is crucial, before you extend it out to others and the environment and other living beings. I believe that a relationship with your body and food that is positive and healthy; by default, creates a relationship with others and the environment that is more fruitful and more sustainable overall. Nourishment then becomes the basis of operating with yourself and the external world.
The second layer of the kindness diet is one that looks at common humanity. In consideration of others, it is custodial care that we all acquire as a result of being. Care, reflection and appreciation of kindness and effort that it takes to present you with a meal. Clearing your plate not just because it reflects good manners but also because it is consideration of those who do not have and thoughtful for the environmental effort in providing that meal to you. Focus on reducing food waste, treat those in the service of delivering meals to you with kindness and gratitude. Eat what lacks cruelty (and here the treatment of people in food value chains and animals is key). Be present not just for yourself, but for others and the environment in which you operate.
As human beings we will always travel, explore, move and eat. We will love, we will hurt and be hurt. It is simply a norm of the human condition. We will also eat and we must eat. The kindness diet is a way of eating that I try to aspire and commit to in order to reduce harm and enjoy as much as possible the culinary delights that the world offers. It is one of my personal ikigais of being, of figuring out how to navigate this messy and beautiful world.