In the company of several six- and seven-year-olds and their mothers, I enjoyed a delicious Valentine’s Day lunch in meditative silence.
No, this wasn’t wishful thinking or a far-fetched fantasy in my mind. It really happened!
This past Sunday, my daughter, some friends, and I ate in complete silence for 10 entire minutes while we mindfully sampled heart-shaped pizzas, green salad with grapefruit and beet slices, black rice with scallions and parsley, and fudgy chickpea brownies. By “mindful” I mean that we chewed thoughtfully. We contemplated the hues of deep purple and bright red and rich brown on our plates. We savored the sweetness and pungency and juiciness that awakened our senses.
This potluck feast was a part of a wonderful program called Peace Garden, a retreat all about mindfulness, meditation, art and music, and more. Every month, each mother and her children bring a few dishes for a themed food gathering on the Upper West Side. We gather with the purpose of slowing down, finding some stillness, and feeling gratitude for the earth’s edible bounty and for all the many hands it took to bring such food to our table.
Do these seem like lofty concepts for six- and seven-year-olds? Perhaps. But a delicious, lovingly prepared meal made the perfect Valentine’s Day laboratory for exploring them. If you’re looking to bring a little peace into your own home, here’s a sweet treat to kickstart your menu, plus steps for how you can host your own mindfulness feast:
Fudgy Power Brownies
- 1 ½ cups grain-sweetened, dairy-free chocolate or carob chips
- 4 organic eggs
- 15 oz. chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
- ½ up pure maple syrup
- ½ Tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt chocolate chips by heating water in a small pan, placing chips in a metal bowl (or smaller pan) and stacking bowl over the boiling water. Stir until melted.
Blend eggs and chickpeas in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add melted chocolate, sweetener and baking powder and blend until smooth. Pour batter into a lightly oiled baking pan (I used a 8″x8″ one) and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Bonus: Cut brownies into heart shapes for an especially lovely treat.
Hosting Your Own Mindfulness Feast
- Pick a food theme. For example: Valentine’s Day, locally grown and seasonal food, healthy finger foods, food from each color in the rainbow.
- Task each parent and child pair with preparing a healthy dish within the theme.
- On the day of, ask all participants to at least taste everything with an open mind.
- Ask some or all participants to share and teach others how their family shows appreciation for a meal (saying grace, singing a song, thanking the chef, etc.)
- Introduce the meal by asking participants to explain what they made, the ingredients they used, and where, how, and when those ingredients grow. Alternatively, save the details and see if everyone can guess the ingredients once you start eating (the chickpea brownies are perfect for this!).
- Eat in silence for 10 minutes, experiencing the food using all five senses.
- Discuss what you observed, and enjoy!