I have this reoccurring dream where I inexplicably find myself center stage in a large theater. I gather that I am in some sort of a play, the audience staring intently at myself and my fellow cast mates who reciting lines that I now realize I should have memorized prior to this moment. I look at my shirtless arms, then down at my bare legs and shoeless feet. To my surprise, yet not surprisingly, I’m naked. I’m never really sure what happens next when these dreams occur, and the theater is but one public setting of many that have slipped my memory. The significance of this dream to me, as well as its memorability, lies most certainly in the fact that I am naked.
It is definitely not on a regular basis that I find myself in public without clothes, yet the feeling that this sort of dream invokes is one that I bet is not unfamiliar to either of us. Nakedness to me suggests a strong vulnerability, yet not the same intimate vulnerability you expose to one person in a romantic relationship, for instance. Yes, there is intimacy in the type I speak of, but it’s different. The kind I’m talking about is that of opening up to everyone, to those who know or think they know you, or maybe to people who do not know you at all. The act of giving truth of yourself to others through written or spoken word invokes the same feeling as finding yourself alone on stage, naked.
For me, I’ve noticed, there’s a great nakedness about writing this blog. I feel a sense of intimidation and fear when I advertise my blog for others to see, almost like going on a first date, showing a stranger your messy bedroom or reluctantly raising your hand to provide a thought during a class discussion. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt many times, even so far as to say that I feel it almost every day. I’d guess most of us do, really. Maybe that’s because there’s a certain comfort we grow to discover with the invulnerability of ourselves in society. Interesting how it then becomes easy, comfortable and rewarding to conform and a challenge to maintain one’s individuality. In conforming to this ideal, though, we not so much forget as ignore the importance of staying true to who we each truly are and being able to show that to others. I, personally, held myself back in this way for quite some time, until I eventually found my life to be rather dull and lacking in passion and creativity. It’s not that I was doing something I didn’t want to be doing, it’s just that I wasn’t doing anything, really. This is when I got back into the kitchen, resumed cooking, created this blog, and subsequently am discovering what it means to cook and eat simply.
The goal of eating simply, for me, shares an important congruency to finding comfort in this sort of exposure. There is sexiness in eating simply, just as there is sexiness in nudity (if you eat simply, that is). What I mean by eating simply is to consume predominantly fresh or raw, with few ingredients, no chemicals, no synthetics. To allow the few ingredients in a dish to speak for themselves, rather than masking them with too many (or unnatural) flavors, suggests a vulnerability like that of being naked.
Take a farm fresh egg, for instance. An egg on its own is modest in that it never once pretended to be anything that it wasn’t. On the contrary, it continues to endure fabrications of high cholesterol, the bad kind, to this day. And yet the egg maintains its integrity without fail, providing us with copious amounts of protein and other nutrients unfailingly. It’s simple, natural, it can stand strong on its own in many different forms, or accompany (no, enhance) any dish quite nicely. And just as in writing this blog to share with others, there is vulnerability in a farm egg; from the hen’s act of laying the egg to preparing and then consuming the egg. Needing at most a dash of salt and pepper, a thoughtfully cooked egg is a culinary equivalent to the most beautiful, healthy naked body needing only a shower and maybe some deodorant.
It’s important, I think, to be naked often. To take off our clothes, regardless of whether someone is looking, and see ourselves in the mirror. We should be proud to take accountability for ourselves, and to feel comfortable in our own skin and with our own voices. Now I’m not suggesting to go run around the block completely naked, screaming out the deepest darkest thoughts and obscenities. Actually, I take that back; just give me a call before you do.
I am suggesting, though, that one of the keys to fulfillment is the ability to regain this sense of comfort in the nude, just as we possessed from the time of birth up until we’re told that it’s inappropriate to live unclothed. I mean this both literally as well as figuratively, in the way that we should give our most concerted effort to express ourselves vulnerably, and without inhibition.
This, for me at least, starts in the kitchen.