Awakening the Senses

Illustration by Aileen Torres

We all need to food to live. But those who love food understand its power–not just to feed the human machine but to awaken the senses. And when the senses are awake, then the soul is alive.

That may sound like mystical mumbo jumbo to some people, but food can have a transformative power that is visible in the moment, as long as you’re aware enough to see.

I was on lunch break recently at Pho 75, a hole-in-the-wall foodie-haven Vietnamese noodle place. It has cafeteria-style seating, and I happened to sit two elongated tables away from someone who caught my attention. It wasn’t that she was loud; she had the looks of a mousy girl. What struck me about her was the obvious enjoyment she was having with her food. She had ordered a large bowl of pho, and she was slurping the noodles, squirting sriracha and sipping the broth with total attention. She had the glow of pleasure on her face and a constant smile that was constrained only by the fact that she was consistently putting food into her mouth. It was a solitary joy, as if there were nothing else in the universe but her and what was in front of her. And in that universe lied a sense of discovery, the thrill, the delight of something new, or perhaps a constant love renewed again and again with each contact.

If you’ve ever cooked for yourself and viewed it as something greater than merely putting food in your stomach, or if you’ve ever cooked as an act of sharing, as opposed to obligation, then you, too, understand this transformative power. The attention that you give to the practical art of creation–that is love, that is care. In the complexity of our lives, this should be the common thread; elemental, radical and essential. Pure love, pure joy.

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