One of the first pithy Buddha quotes I remember hearing, back when I first became interested in the teachings, was this one:
If you knew what I do about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way
As a chef and food lover this sounded relevant and wholesome, and something I should take on. But if I am honest, I felt a little sceptical, or maybe it seemed too inconsequential, too easy. Surely dharma was more hard work than that?
But today this line came back to me, and I felt different about it because I came to it from a different angle. This month I listed to this Ted Talk, about the secrets to a long and happy life. Research shows that the most important factors are our close relationships and our positive social integration. It’s our personal relationships that determine not only our health, but also our quota of joy and happiness, according to this one (but very large) research project, that analysed tens of thousands of people over a 7 year period. After chewing that over for some days, the thought occurred to me that maybe one way that I could increase the joy in my own life, would be to try and never eat alone…. and then BOOM!
Social isolation is public health risk of our time. Sharing a meal nourishes so much more than our bodies, and sharing a meal is a centuries old tradition which we forgo at our peril. It’s a time for sharing what’s in our hearts and minds, sharing the bounty, sharing the washing-up. Bonding around the camp fire is one of life’s great pleasures.
I used to love sitting alone in coffee shops with a good book – it was one of my “indulgences”. So it’s interesting for me to notice that I am no longer am inclined to do that. Now I think; what a missed opportunity to talk to someone, to buy someone a coffee or a piece of cake.
I am very lucky that since arriving in Queenstown 10 months ago, I have found a tribe of friends who are very much into potluck dinners. Potlucks are such an awesome idea – bring whatever you fancy, or nothing at all; a packet of crisps or a ginormous plate of handrolled pasta; it doesn’t matter. Just turn up, whether you having something to share foodwise, or something to share of yourself… the results can be life-prolonging, life-enhancing, and life-changing.
Here is a recipe for a gluten-free chocolate cake. The recipe is by Emma Galloway, also known as My Darling Lemon Thyme and it’s my go-to special occasion chocolate cake recipe these days. Emma shared the recipe on her blog after making it as a wedding cake. This week I made a slightly less elegant version, and covered it in Smarties – see above – but it definitely brought a lot of smiles.
Celebration Chocolate Cake, by Emma Galloway
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 330g butter
- 300g dark chocolate
- 2 1/4 cups almond meal
- 9 eggs
Pre-heat oven to 170, grease and line baking tin. Put cocoa into a medium saucepan and slowly whisk in the hot water to form a smooth paste. Add sugar, butter and chocolate. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Stir in the almond meal and eggs. Pour into tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool cake in the tin, then remove, cover and refrigerate until needed.
Decorate however the fancy takes you!