In Greek culture, cooks are guided by their senses when measuring and determining what to cook. The five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste may be our primary receptors, but there is a sixth sense — the soul’s inner voice, which allows us to ‘know thyself ’.
When cooking, do not merely allow the recipes and its measurements to dictate the ingredients and quantities you want to include. These measurements are just a suggestion and serve as a guide only. They are true measurements for the writer but not necessarily the truth for you. Adapt them to your preferences and to what suits your harmonious balance. This is one of the reasons why you will not find precise measurements in any ancient Greek recipes.
However, when you are measuring ingredients according to your taste, follow the ancient Greeks and use circular utensils, as they contain infinite possibilities and infinite energy.
In reality, no recipe is technically correct because it has not been written specifically for you and for your body to reach a harmonious state. Some people may prefer salty flavours to sweet ones, while others may prefer sour flavours to salty ones.
Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks understood this and no recipe written in those times had quantities listed. Hippocrates prescribed different foods for different ailments and understood that no one size fits all. The same dish was altered to accommodate each patient’s needs and requirements. Relax, trust and let your soul and inner guiding system determine the quantities you want in a dish, not a writer who knows nothing about you and what makes you feel good and joyous. Cooking is a blank canvas waiting for you to create your own masterpiece. Write and create your own story as you would like it to be told.
Before you begin cooking be still for a few moments; it is important to be present when cooking. Take notice of what are you seeing, smelling, hearing and tasting. Your senses will guide you into making the best-informed decision when cooking. Look at your ingredients, smell their aroma, touch and feel them, and let them speak to you about how to best combine them in your dish. Explore and connect with them and visualise in your mind different colour combinations and what you would like your dish to look like.
Listen to your heart and what your inner voice is telling that you need to eat and follow your instinct. Enter your kitchen with peace and happiness and your senses will be open to new and exciting flavours.
Each of the senses has a feeling attached to it. Use this feeling as a message, a direction or a sign to guide you in the cooking process. Use your hands and palms to measure quantities. Gently touch each ingredient and understand its texture and structure. Handle all your ingredients with love and respect. Let your energy vibrate into the ingredients and receive the wonderful energy back from them. By doing so you are attaching your joyous energy to the dish. Use your sense of smell to select ingredients.
Smell the herbs and spices; stronger smelling spices mean you use less of them. Dry herbs have a stronger fragrance too so use less of them and more fresh herbs when cooking. When we smell something burning the feeling is unpleasant so we are prompted to turn the oven off so our senses can recover. Use your sight to measure.
Look for balance in all of the ingredients. If you need more green in a dish add more herbs. When we see too much of one ingredient in a salad we might feel disharmony and need to stop using that ingredient. Listen to yourself and the ingredients as to what you should do. Select colour combinations that are always pleasing to your eye.
The final sense that ties the harmonious balance together is taste. When we taste a salad dressing and there is too much sourness it makes our tastebuds contract. Add another element, such as sweetness (honey), to bring back balance. Continually taste your dishes when preparing them. If you are not sure whether a dish needs more spices, salt or pepper, add a little and keep tasting until you get the right combination for you.
When using our senses we permit different vibrational levels of energy to assist us with measuring our dishes and establishing when they are cooked and ready to eat. The eyes absorb and use the colour and the energy of light. The ears hear and absorb the surrounding soundwaves. The hands absorb the energy and consciousness from the ingredients and our taste absorbs the energy placed in the mouth. Clarity of the senses depends on how open you are to these energies. When all these elements are in unison, your inner voice will let you know and you will find harmony in your cooking. Our senses have allowed us to connect to nature, ourselves and our souls.
This is an extract from Maria Benardis’ ‘Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health– How the Wisdom of Ancient Greece Can Lead to a Longer Life’, the sequel to her bestselling My Greek Family Table. She is running some classes/ workshops in Bondi in February based on the books at Intuitive Well.