Every dish that comes out of my Inner Kitchen is infused with love and energy in the hope that it reaches the places that need healing; the body, mind, and soul. The Inner Kitchen is about unconditional love for ourselves and the power we hold to transform our lives. Each one of us has the ability to tap into that power.
– Laurel Herman
Eagerly working over a hot stove, aspiring author Laurel Herman prepares an organic feast of sweet and savory butternut squash, humbly bitter and delicious garlic Swiss chard, and satisfying grains of wild mushroom rice. Pots clink and clank. Comforting aromas of a hearty home cooked meal fill the kitchen air and cause me to inappropriately salivate as I wait at the table.
“I want you to taste it so you can get a taste of what I do,” Herman announced, as she bustled around making finishing touches with great care. “Food is my healing modality. Everything I do with food is part of my soul-work, it is my healing modality I use for myself and others. I believe that our bodies are our gardens for growth and change.”
Growth, change, and food as a metaphor for the human heart and soul is what her book, The Inner Kitchen, is all about. Inspired by her own personal journey and tremendous growth she has experienced over the past 10 months, The Inner Kitchen is about healing with food on a deeper level to cope in the face of fear and change.
“Food is just one layer of healing. It is the way I coped with the excruciating pain of love lost and my fears of facing change. There are so many layers of self-actualization that you can have to bring about change in your life, and help you understand your thoughts and how your thoughts create things—what some people call ‘waking up,’” Herman said. “My end of it is the food end and it has truly changed my life such wonderful ways.”
Herman started out in the conventional world of food and attended culinary school in England. When she returned to the U.S., she began working at Smith Food’s Grocery store, a natural organic store, which began her gradual process toward organic, holistic nutrition and food.
“In my book I write that change comes gradually and it took me quite awhile to switch from conventional to organic, about 5 years,” Herman said. “My change started with a coupon to see an acupuncturist in the West End, who suggested I eliminate gluten and sugar from my diet and it just changed the way I felt—literally.”
Herman had suffered for 15 years from acid reflex was 60 pound overweight, and took a handful of medications. After just 3-4 weeks of her new diet, she threw out her pills and prescriptions, and hasn’t needed them since.
“After eliminating gluten, it was like a light bulb went off. As I started feeling better, purifying and educating myself more, and even though I have worked in the food environment for years, the more I tasted, the more I realize this is what food is supposed to taste like,” Herman said. “Being aware of what works for your body when you start to see your own disease fall away—it is a completely miraculous, life changing experience.”
Herman’s philosophy is based on traditional Chinese medicine that regards food and medicine as inseparable modalities. She was especially inspired by a trip she had taken to study at a Buddhist temple to cook with them for a weekend. She watched how they worked and their attention to detail with their food.
“It always was like ‘no, chop that smaller,’” Herman said. “And it was their patience that was the most inspiring and humbling experience. I had volunteered to stir their rice dough, thinking it would take 10 minutes like most other recipes, but their dough had to be kneaded for an hour and a half and I couldn’t handle it. They were patient enough to work until it was a certain texture, the perfect texture whether it took 1 hour or 20 hours. They concentrated on the minutest details ffor ood that was gone in one or two bites.”
Food also took a meditative form for Herman early one morning at the Buddhist retreat. It was cold outside and a little old lady had directed Herman to one of four different tubs filled with water and foods like watercrests, mint, and leaves. She spent hours in the sunrise, washing it and washing it so that it became a meditative trance. A way to bring back and keep the memories of the first Vietnamese meal she had shared with her distanced lover, her source of inspiration as she was having this experience.
“Everything connects, there are no accidents,” Herman affirmed.
Herman refers to change in a way that is also consistent with Chinese philosophy. She calls it a disruption of flow, a shift in direction, and an alteration of conditions and of circumstances in our lives, especially with regard to an unwelcome change that has entered in our realities.
And the saddest part is that most of America do not get to experience energy work, healing, or embracing change, Herman said. They have a hard time understanding there are more dimensions to us beyond the physical dimension—there is also the emotional. Often, we experience things after the fact, after we screw up or are dealt a bad deck of cards—only then do we realize things like I am not happy with this or I do not like that, Herman explained. America has to start realizing the “salad bar” craze and mentality that has dominated people’s beliefs about health and losing weight over the past 30 years is not working.
One of my friends is diabetic, her husband is diabetic and had a stroke, the entire family all has serious sensory integration issues, and none of them have ever eaten broccoli or an apple, and now everyone in the house is seriously sick, Herman sadly explained.
“It just is a scary prospect for people to change. You want this, you want that, but this food we are eating is such a horrible thing. But if its delicious and colorful, what more can you want?” She smiled at my empty plate and refilled it with a second helping.
A lot of people hide behind their weight and diseases for a variety of reasons, like they don’t want to see another doctor or try something new. They attest that “this is what the medical community has told me for years,” but Herman protests that changing her mind about food has brought about enormous changes in her life that has nothing to do with food and it is something all should experience.
“People fear changing their patterns from what that which they are comfortable. When everything changes, change everything. Reconstruct yourself from the inside. All change is for the better, no change is for the worse,” Herman advises.
“The Inner Kitchen is not about getting by, it’s not about living. It about living for a passion and changing your mindset to embrace new possibilities. It is about the ego, control, and feeling ready to see the bad things and the chaos in life as a foundation to take root and grow from. It’s about really shaking things up, getting rid of old patterns—eating patterns, thinking patterns, relationship patterns with others and with ourselves. It’s about the soul work, its an inside job. It is the real gut wrenching stuff that creates a greater awareness and leads you, at last, to an ultimate reality.”