When I was asked to write an article about the Mastery of Wholefood Cooking course I was very eager to make the most of the opportunity to wax lyrical about my own experience. It soon became obvious (after a discussion with my more astute girlfriend) that to be true to the spirit of Mastery course it made sense to include the experiences of my fellow graduates. After all it was during the weekend section of the course, when we came together as one to cook, that we produced the most extraordinary food and really experienced the joy and freedom of cooking in a group.
Over the course of one year we went on a journey together to the farthest reaches of the culinary Universe. I felt very much like we were in Star Trek, venturing where no man (or woman!) had gone before under the cultured stewardship of Captain Jean Torné (definitely more of a Jean Luc Picard than a James Kirk).
We came back from our travels with many treasures; I have shared my reflections below, followed after by those from other graduates of the course.
For me participating in the Mastery programme was an inquiry into health and healing. I was interested to explore how we use food to create healthy lives for ourselves, our families, friends and community. My experiences practising as a GP also played an important part in this inquiry.
As a GP I find that I am often required to adopt a mechanistic view of health, focusing on problems that need to be fixed. This is a very useful approach and medical science has achieved incredible things preventing disease, extending lifespans and improving the quality of life of countless people in this way.
However, in my experience an exaggerated sense of what western medicine is able to achieve can be counterproductive. It can lead to an inappropriate reliance on an external magic bullet “fix”, relieving us of our responsibility to take care of ourselves. This diminishes the power we have to create health in our lives.
Over the course of participating I have found that engaging more consciously with cooking has allowed me to connect to this innate power, and to build my internal resources and cultivate a robustness in my physical body and spirit. At the same time it also allowed me to let go of some of my fixed ideas about food and cooking. For example I previously found it very easy to become so preoccupied with how and what I should eat that the simple joy of creating and eating a meal was lost in a jumble of ideas and concerns.
Reflecting on the course, I can see that the cooking is now a fixture of my life providing joy and nourishment in a way that was not available before. The course also naturally led to the next stage of my training, as an acupuncturist.
Over the course of the Mastery programme I deepened my knowledge of cooking techniques and responsibly sourcing foods. Also creating a relationship to the Sacred through the act of cooking in co-operation with others as a team and to seamlessly create a meal together as one body of people. I learned to create finesse and delicacy in cooking and presentation and bringing the meal together.
My intention over the course of the year’s Mastery programme was to support myself financially. I navigated life’s opportunities over the year to see what would land well with me. And now through participating a business has opened up catering for well-being and teaching private classes in people’s homes and also selling home made pickles.
I have also considered the question “Why do I cook?”
Answer: As a meditation, to connect with my body, my biology, the earth, to life flowing from the earth into the food and into myself and then as a gift to the other. I love the flow that this has to offer and how this process nourishes and maintains our well-being when coming from an open inner space and from the heart.
Jean’s course offered an invaluable insight into possibilities of wholefood cooking, approaches to flavour combinations and responsibility required to do justice to the ingredients. It also showed me what it means to truly work together. joined in creation and transformation of the cooking process. Jean’s enthusiasm and knowledge enriched my understanding of wholefood cooking principles, which allowed me to bring more joy and freedom into my daily cooking experience.
Before I did the Mastery programme, I would have never called myself a cook. I always had this want to have access to the kitchen and cooking but actually found the kitchen confusing and difficult. Participating in the Mastery programme has completely transformed this. The relationship I have with cooking now has reached a depth that I have never experienced before, I feel I have an understanding and am able to be in the kitchen in a way I didn’t think I could. Cooking is now something that can be joyful, experimental and alive. I now approach the kitchen without knowing and just create, which is truly a gift.
The course taught me the importance of the provenance of food, so our meals can be truly nourishing, and it gave me the knowledge and experience to create delicious and satisfying meals to suit my needs in the context of the ever-changing seasons. I learned through cooking in a supportive team of fellow students, all inspired by witnessing Jean Torné’s inquisitive and creative mind, generous and unwavering heart, commitment and focus.
For me the Mastery programme was an intense experience, being in a programme for a whole year with nowhere to hide… well not for long anyway! I’d walk through the doors on a Friday evening, at the start of our monthly weekends, and almost immediately be in my “I’m not good enough” pattern and from there I would navigate, sometimes fully gripped by the pattern, at other times watching myself and holding my pattern lightly.
We chopped and cooked and chopped and cooked and ate like kings or perhaps royal peasants… vegetables, grains, beans, pulses, fish…
We worked together, quietly, guided by Jean who had a listening for each and every one of us.
Everyday when I cook I am reminded of the mastery, I show up differently in the kitchen these days, cook more often from hara, with an open heart and my food has a depth not present before. But my overriding memory is of the last weekend when we had our individual assessments yet we worked so completely as a whole, intent on supporting whoever was currently leading the cooking, barely speaking – something truly magical was created that weekend.
I spoke to Leo about his experience of participating in the Mastery of Wholefood and Macrobiotic Cooking. He particularly noticed that he has become closer to his sister. He has developed a deeper appreciation and acceptance of who she is and of her needs. This has also enabled him to help her to navigate healthier and more nourishing food choices. Over the year a bridge has been built between them and they can enjoy the simple pleasure of eating good food together.