Sparking Joy on Your Plate

Most of us have seen “Tidying Up.” Many of us have been Tidying up! And why not? Who doesn’t love the idea of sparking joy? All across the country we’re working on sparking joy in everything from our relationships to our careers to our underwear drawers. This notion has got the foodies at Blossom Water thinking about sparking joy on the plate.

We’re not talking about plates of cake and ice cream, although there is a time and a place for that, but about the kind of food that nourishes soul and body. My mind immediately goes to my favorite New Year’s Day breakfast: black eyed peas and greens, or Hoppin’ John. This meal is considered to bring good luck. The greens (preferably collards or kale) symbolize money. Because they swell as they cook, the black eyed peas symbolize prosperity. Sparks joy for me.

Dark chocolate certainly sparks joy. And gelato, too. But the kind of joy sparked by Hoppin’ John and similar deeply nutritious meals is more savory and longer lasting. It’s about mindful eating. More significantly, it’s about significance. And ascribing meaning.

Like the magic of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up, it’s not really about cleaning or making space, but giving meaning to important aspects of our lives: our stuff. Kondo’s decluttered view finds its foundation in her Shinto roots. “Shinto is the traditional religion of Japan (8th century) that focuses on ritual practices…to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past.” (Wikipedia) This connection is made by honoring the Kami, or  “divine being,” “spirit,” or “spiritual essence” of things. It’s a way of showing respect to ourselves, our history, our surroundings. “Kami are Shinto spirits present everywhere — in humans, in nature, even in inanimate objects. At an early age, I understood this to mean that all creations were miracles of a sort.” (Huffington Post article)

Let’s take this practice to the plate!

It has been scientifically proven that when we eat mindfully and with joy, we get more from out our food. And not just in delight, but in nutrition. Science tell us that we get more out of the foods we enjoy eating, that nutrient absorption is connected to our enjoyment!

Here’s how: better digestion. Happiness signals the parasympathetic nervous system to relax, which stimulates digestive juices in the intestinal tract. In other words, when you eat food that tastes good and brings you pleasure, your body triggers better digestion.

The opposite is also true. The body is smart; it craves what it needs. This is part of our evolution as a species. When we demonize certain food cravings (see chocolate and gelato) and glorify others, we disrupt this natural process. Surely this is an over simplification, but it makes sense.

Sparking joy in food, finding the spirit and connection to what we eat, makes our meals more meaningful. We’re happier and reap greater benefits from our meals. We’re even sated with less! Try it! Pay attention to the flavors and textures of your food. Notice how they make you feel. Fill your plate with those that honor your body make you feel good.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash