The whole world offers itself to us in the form of food. That is literally true, especially for those of us with the means to buy whatever ingredients we want from all the continents and all the seas of the world. That's quite an offering. We need to respect it.

When we're preparing our food, we're about to embody all those ingredients in front of us — by making them part of our bodies. Before that happens, I suggest you also embody the respect you feel for the offering: bow to your ingredients.

This is a beautiful way to begin the process of eating. Your bow will help bring you to mindfulness of the sacrifice of other living things in the form of your food. It's not just animals; plants are alive, too, and have given themselves entirely to you. To begin the process, before you start peeling or pounding or pureeing, give your ingredients a little bow. You can do this mentally if a physical bow would disturb others. Now you're ready to lay hands on your food.

Everyone cooks. Even people who hate cooking find themselves at the grill or cutting tomatoes for a salad now and then. Those of us who cook a lot learn that touching food, and touching the ingredients that make that food, is sometimes a powerful experience and sometimes a bore. When you respect your ingredients and see their greatness, cooking is deeply rewarding. The trouble is, this rarely happens on its own.

Here's something I try when I don't spontaneously feel a deep affinity and love for the carrots or broccoli I'm cooking with. I touch each thing that was alive, thinking "I am touching the Buddha." Think of all things as the Buddha's body. That way you're not manhandling your ingredients; you're laying hands on them. Zen teacher Dogan calls this way of touching the very process of saving all living things. When we think of things as Buddha, we elevate both them and ourselves.

Franz Metcalf in Just Add Buddha!