On Intuitive Cooking

by Lauren Nixon
Raíces EcoCulture Volunteer and local FoodCorps Service Member

When I invite people over, they often leave asking for a recipe for a dish that I prepared. I usually rattle off a list of ingredients, attempting to evade questions regarding measurements, questions about how much of this or that to add to a dish.

I own no cookbooks. My measuring cups gather more and more dust each day. I tend to create meals pretty intuitively.

The truth is I wasn’t taught to cook. I don’t have a mental catalog of sweet moments in which I received instruction on how to boil an egg, or roast a red pepper, or simmer a fragrant curry with a family member or some sweet elderly next door neighbor. I don’t have any recipes for sauces written on index cards in barely legible cursive.

I did it on my lonesome. I did it intuitively. In fact, for me, cooking has been a rather solitary act that I have grown to relish over the years. It is the one time where I can be alone and answer to nothing but my own tastebuds.

Growing up, I remember craving foods that weren’t being served at home—I wanted creamy avocadoes, the funk of oily fish, the warm heat of garam masala, the bite of bitter greens. I would paw through magazines and watch cooking shows and later I would play around in the kitchen. Eating began as an act of experimentation, a sort of “stepping out” into my own realm of consciousness.

Now, I eat for optimal health and nourishment. My main focus is nutrient density, on using plants as the focal point of dishes, on satisfying a greater need to fuel my body with pure, clean foods. But the need to play, to experiment, still remains. For me, tinkering about in the kitchen and allowing for an exploratory space is wildly empowering.

Everything begins with intuition, a gut feeling, a hunch. That “gut feeling” that many of us experience is not something to be ignored. In our everyday lives, it can help us to navigate sticky situations and it can also assist us in uncovering new interests, new loves, new strengths, new needs.

So, each moment in the kitchen becomes an opportunity to follow our intuition, to push away the blueprint, to shred the list of goals. I’ve realized quite recently that life isn’t always linear—despite how much we crave that linear path. In the kitchen, I can smell that pinch of cayenne before I sprinkle it in order to gauge the heat, but this certainly doesn’t guarantee that I won’t feel the burn. Outside of the kitchen, I am still
working to reorganize my relationship with intuition and to let things occur more organically—to stop checking and double checking, to let go of the five year plans.

Intuitive Cooking

Raíces Board Member Angela Lugo making tomato sauce from Raíces grown tomatoes last summer. Intuitive cooking is usually how it’s done in the Raíces kitchens!

Each day is an opportunity to learn to trust myself and my cravings enough to veer away from recipes and directions. Everything is trial and error. There will be technical difficulties along the way—shrieking smoke detectors and burned fingers. But there will also be nourishing meals. There will be full stomachs.