I am a self-identified cafeteria yogini: the asana practice has been transformative, but I tune out a lot of the rhetoric. It’s not that I am not aware of the eight limbs of yoga, or don’t find them honorable, but I just don’t know that it all makes sense with my understanding of the world. Take, for instance, Brahmacharya, an element of the first limb (Yama). Brahmacharya dictates a path of non-lust, and while this mostly applies to sex, it also more generally applies (as I understand it) to any form of excess.
I’m not going to get into all the reasons I find this a bit problematic. Suffice it to say, in my view, excess is just one of those very human things that, like anything else, should be indulged in moderation. There are different kinds of excess, too. Is a lazy Sunday in bed with someone you love excessive? Probably. Is it the reason that a lot of us feel okay about getting out of bed the following Monday? Definitely.
Food, of course, is another one of those things that presents the risk of excess. I know that on Tuesday night, despite my best intentions, I could not avoid devouring half of Katie’s rocky road sundae. It was like I was no longer in the driver’s seat: she offered me the plastic spoon, and I was suddenly possessed by the spirit of a shark. (You know how a shark’s eyes sort of contract and flip over every time they chomp down? Mine totally did that–that’s how I knew which animal had hijacked me.) And last night, it took every inch of my willpower not to push Sami out of the way and wolf down both of the pesto pizzas he spent over an hour making.
What is it about food that brings out my inner maniac? I know I’m not alone in this. Also, judging from the wide and wonderful range of body types I see out in the world, I know I’m not alone in permitting the occasional food maniac jailbreak. Sometimes you gotta let them run free and bulldoze the buffet. And as a cook, I am faced with not one but two sets of lock picks: first I need to decide if I want to tempt the maniac with something devastating, and then I have to wrangle with the temptation on the other side of the bars.
And as happens every morning in Pasadena, this drama played out in the early minutes of wakefulness, when I had the thought that I have just about every morning:
Oh man, I am DYING for one of those goat cheese and herb scones from Little Flower. And a latte. And an entire package of vanilla marshmallows.
I have already built in a fail-safe for this kind of thinking: before putting on shoes, open the refrigerator door and see what’s what. And after seeing not only a bunch of free-range eggs but also a bag of fresh spinach and a wedge of manchego, I knew exactly what needed to happen. I needed to crack open some eggs, look that food maniac in the eyes, and say: look, kiddo, it’s time to be honest with yourself. You don’t have fifteen bucks to spend on overpriced (though admittedly brilliant) junk food, and you don’t have the metabolism to handle it anymore. You spent your teens and twenties being excessive so that you could wake up refreshed on the cosmic Monday morning known as your thirties. So eat something good for you, and use that big brain of yours to make it worth eating.
In other words, I was honest with myself. And loving and accepting and disciplined. Patanjali knew all about those things, too, and even wrote them down:
Satya–truth in thoughts and speech.
Ahimsa–kindness and non-violence.
In the spirit of honesty, I kept my omelet open-faced. Open-hearted, really. And not just because I like the idea of really experiencing my food visually. I like the idea that I can prepare food that affords me the same honesty that I afford myself. I like an omelet that says, yeah, I’m pretty healthy and I’m also completely delicious. I look a little bit like I threw up on myself, too. Enjoy.