In the Kitchen & On the Mat

Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~ Julia Child

This Wednesday, August 15, 2012, would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Many restaurants are commemorating America’s first celebrity chef with a special menu inspired by her recipes. The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History will reopen Julia Child’s kitchen exhibit to the public. Julia Child’s televised cooking lessons inspired many a home cook to improvise.

While not directly influenced by Julia Child, my kitchen prowess certainly features a generous dose of improvisation. I grew up with a grandmother whose cooking was highly acclaimed by my extended family. Her mother had taught her the Yiddish recipes before they fled the old world. My grandmother adapted these recipes to the local ingredients of her new country, and later replaced the schmaltz with vegetable oil in my favorite dishes when I became a vegetarian. All of the recipes came from her memory and her heart, all of which vanished when she passed away of natural causes at a ripe old age.

My other major cooking influence entered my life when I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. Cliff Preefer of Sacred Chow taught me how to veganize meat- and dairy-based dishes. During my years in New York City, Cliff tested new recipes on me and explained ways to adapt popular recipes with plant-based ingredients. In the process, Cliff taught me the importance of spontaneity and improvisation in cooking.

This spontaneity and improvisation translates into my work in yoga studios: I could plan to teach a pinnacle pose or a specific alignment principle, only to see a combination of students for which such a class plan would simply not play out well. On the spot, I would adapt the class plan I’d had in mind, breaking down the pinnacle pose even more or switching to an entirely different alignment basics topic. This mental flexibility is vital to a positive outcome. Mix the ingredients and bake in savasana for seven to ten minutes, with the same passion and care that I feel in the kitchen.

Thus, the final outcome is just as delicious and satisfying as many Americans had found in Julia Child’s dishes.

©2012 Amy Dara Hochberg. All Rights Reserved.