Weekend Meditation: The Guilty Epicurean

Weekend Meditation: The Guilty Epicurean

Dana Velden
Mar 8, 2009

The kitchen for me is usually a place of joy and refuge where I can be creative, experimental, expressive and accomplished. Even better, it's also an ordinary place where the most basic of human activities--cooking and eating--are enacted everyday. I love the ordinary/extrordinary synergy of food and am often quite pleased that we need to indulge in this necessity on a fairly frequent basis.

So when something like Guilt arrises in the kitchen, I've learned to pay attention. Why is this icky feeling messing with my bliss? And what am I going to do about it?

Our kitchens can be one of the most guilt inducing places in our homes. We feel guilty about what we're eating (too much fat, too much sugar, not enough veg.) Or we feel guilty abut buying all those leafy vegetables and then tossing them in the trash when they've gone bad, which leads to guilt about not having a compost bin, which leads to even more guilt about not single-handedly saving our planet.

There's guilt about not producing enough delicious, healthy meals for our families; guilt for not buying organic, free-range, local; guilt for not doing the dishes or taking out the trash or defrosting the freezer. Guilt: what a nuisance!

But first, I want to point out that guilt is not always such a bad thing. Our guilty feelings tell us that our ideas and expectations are not aligned with what's actually happening. It can be indicator to pause, take stock and adjust accordingly. If we can do this simply and straightforwardly, the situation easily becomes more manageable and we're back in our happy place. So guilt has a helpful, if limited, place in our kitchens and lives.

But guilt can also lead to a sense of shame, inadequacy and frustration. And these easily lead us to what Buddhists call the three poisons: greed, anger and delusion. So while it's OK to feel the initial pinprick of guilt's lesson, it's not OK to indulge it or just as bad, to ignore it. Unchecked, guilt goes underground and can undermine the simple pleasures and satisfactions inherent in being alive and, people, that's no way to live.

Guilt is also quite tenacious for some of us and it's true that it's not always possible to just shrug it off. The last thing we need to feel is guilty about feeling guilty! So small steps, baby steps are helpful. See if you can take a few spoonfuls of that amazing cream soup, or a few chews of that crispy bacon and just enjoy it in that moment. Often, by registering that pleasure deeply, we find that we are satisfied and don't need more.

The garbage, however, should always be thoroughly and completely taken out. Immediately.

I hope your kitchens and pantries and garbage pails and dinner plates are all blissfully guilt-free today. If not, how do you deal with it?

(Image: Miette Patisserie and Belly Timber's infamous Messy Kitchen)

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