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The Food of Love

843 560 Vita Burton-Davey, Working to be better each day

herbs and oil

I like cooking. I am a fairly good cook. My friends and family are generally very complimentary about the meals they have shared with me.

It is not, however, the applause nor the mastering of the skills involved in cooking which gives me pleasure: it is the understanding that the love involved in making a meal for friends or family is a gift which is given back a thousand fold.

I love good food and care about how it is produced and where it comes from. If I have grown the food myself, even if the ingredient is a handful of herbs, the whole dish carries more love, it carries more meaning for me and more care for the consumer.

Consumer – the loved one consuming the meal I have prepared.
Consumed – the loved ones being eaten.



The love, and the care extends to all: I choose my vegetables with care, growing what I can and finding or inventing recipes to use a wide range of seasonal herbs, vegetables and fruit. I choose the meat I cook with the utmost care. Animal husbandry and the environment are important considerations in the choices I make. I have chosen to eat meat after careful thought (and after several forays into vegetarianism) and am very aware of how much I use, how many meals contain it and its provenance. I care about the people I cook meals for.

Love is the essential ingredient in cooking: both for the cook and the cooked for. It is hard work preparing meal after meal for family and it is hard work preparing a special meal for friends but the love involved in this daily act of nurturing makes it a gift to the self, as well as to family or friends. It makes the labour a labour of love.

There is something very basic about preparing food for others and for oneself which reaches back through the ages and reconnects us with reality rather than the modern construct we inhabit. We need to eat and if the food we eat is homemade our sense of wellbeing and security is also fed. If we have given time and energy in producing the food, if we have plucked it from the earth, washed it and incorporated it in the dish we serve, the gift we give is magnified. If we have bought the individual ingredients, choosing the best on offer and prepared the meal from scratch, we have earned the appreciation of those we share our meal with and can feel satisfied with what we have done.



Visceral satisfaction is quite rare in many people’s daily lives. Unless one is involved in very practical work or play, it will be something that is seldom experienced. The physical act of cooking is immensely rewarding. Once one has gained some experience, there is a meditative quality to cooking and one can lose oneself in the routine of a regularly prepared meal or anticipate the reception that a popular family dish will elicit.

Cooking and eating are very sensory activities. The smell, look and texture of the food we eat and of course the taste, combine to bring us an experience other than that of merely sustaining ourselves. Washing of vegetables is an extremely tactile and tender act. Cleansing to ensure the health of those who will eat the food we make is an act of basic care. Peeling and chopping and heating have been a part of food preparation since pre-history. That link, back to our past, can be felt in the body and the heart when we make a meal. I believe that the inherent knowledge that food is precious and that it need be respected, is embodied in the act of selecting, cooking it and being mindful whilst eating it. This is felt more strongly as one gives more and more attention and love to the processes involved.


The loss of this connection which fast food and ready meals have brought has led to food being undervalued, factory farmed and homogenised to extremes. Many of us do not want to bear witness to the reality of the suffering of factory farmed animals. Most animals suffer in death and to only consider their end is to close our eyes to the longer term suffering which is for most part, their lives. I do not kid myself that good animal husbandry, free range and organic or small farm produced meat, means that there is no suffering but within my choice to eat meat, I do my best to care for the consumed. Most of us turn a blind eye to the waste involved in the production of fruit and vegetables with barely a blemish or size discrepancy. Do we really care if our apples are all the same size and shape?

When cooking for family and cooking for friends our love and our care extends far beyond the immediate, far out into the world. Loving cooks are true environmentalists, true lovers and true friends… of those who are close to us and of the earth we share with all living things. The things we need to eat!

‘And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching….

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.’




Surviving The Post-Holiday Blues

1024 683 Susan Carr


The summer holidays have come and gone and, for most of us that well-earned break has been taken. But once you are back in the office, your holiday can soon become a distant memory. So how can you overcome the ‘post-holiday blues’?

1. Give yourself time to adjust

Accept that it may be normal to feel lower in mood following a holiday and so try to allow a period of transition between getting back from holiday and going back to work, for example, by taking an extra day if possible. If this isn’t an option then ease yourself back into work gently – allow extra time to check the inevitable deluge of emails received in your absence, minimise the number of meetings in the first few days back, prioritize your work and leave on time rather than staying late to “catch up”.

2. Incorporate aspects of your holiday into your everyday life
Technology makes it very easy to “capture” memories and so make time to look back at the photos and videos you took to remind yourself of the good times that you had. It may also be possible to relive some of these experiences by cooking some of the dishes that you tried or finding time to do some of the activities you enjoyed on holiday, such as swimming, playing tennis or simply going out for a meal. There may also have been some things that you did less on holiday, eg. watching television, checking emails and texts and so this could be continued when you are back home – only watch those programmes that really capture your imagination and limit the use of social media (which in turn could make more time for the activities referred to above).

3. Take regular breaks
Try to rationalize your annual leave by taking short breaks throughout the year rather than saving it for one big holiday (although there are some trips that necessitate a longer holiday). On a day-to-day basis try to make use of your lunch break by going out rather than eating at your desk and avoid staying late unless absolutely necessary.

4. Take stock of your life
Occasionally the ‘post-holiday blues’ may be more than just a passing phase and may highlight a difficulty in your life whether at home or work. Allow yourself some time before making any life-changing decisions but do take the opportunity to consider whether there are any aspects of your life that could be improved – maybe it is time to look for a new job.

5. Plan another holiday!
If all else fails then you could try planning your next holiday as this can go a long way to easing those post-holiday blues.

Whatever it is, taking action is most important, so those post-holiday blues don’t stick around for long.


What Is In Your Stress Toolbox?

1024 681 Vita Burton-Davey, Working to be better each day


We all suffer from stress different ways which means that there is no “one size fit’s all” solution to managing it. By developing your own STRESS TOOLBOX you can focus on ways or reducing stress and the tools to bring calm.


Here are a few helpful tools which you might like to add to your STRESS TOOLBOX:

1. The Chisel – avoid stress

I know that saying ‘avoid stress’ seems to be stating the obvious, and it is not possible to avoid all stress in our lives but putting off stressful tasks can amplify their negative effects. You can eliminate a lot of stress from your life though: through developing habits which help you avoid stress.

  • Say “no” more often – Knowing what is possible for you, and sticking to your guns, means you will be able to limit the damaging effects of stress which is unavoidable. This may be a difficult habit to establish at first but when you consider that you will be more effective at work and more relaxed at home when you limit what you take on, it will not take long for you to realise the benefits.
  • Avoid people who cause you to be stressed – There are three types of people in your life: people who wish you well; people who want things to remain as they are; and people who wish you harm. Spend as much time as possible with people who wish you well and avoid the other two types.
  • Avoid arguments – It is easy to develop a habit of ‘always arguing over the same old things’ with friends or family. It takes two to argue, so take the initiative and avoid topics you know will cause trouble. If someone else brings one up, choose to opt out of the conversation.
  • Make positive changes in your routine – Introduce some relaxation into your day. The news and many TV programmes can make one feel anxious or low. Choose viewing carefully, our time is precious. If your commute is unpleasant, take a longer but less-travelled route. If your day always starts with a rush, and a hurrying of self or family members, start the day a little earlier and prepare fully the night before.
  • Go for a walk – Walking is a very effective way to lower stress levels. If you cannot fit a walk in every day, try a couple of times a week and a weekend walk. If possible get out into the countryside or local park. Re-connecting with the natural environment is immensely beneficial to ones mental health and the exercise will do your body the world of good.


2. The Clamp – take control of the situation

When stress is unavoidable, take control of how you react. Don’t wait for stress symptoms to manifest

themselves, go on a self-preservation offensive.

  • Express your feelings more freely – Good communication is an effective way to reduce stress. Voice your concerns in an open and respectful way. Take time to consider responses to requests (consulting a diary or jobs list is a useful delay tactic) and think about what you can manage.
  • Be willing to compromise – When relationships become stressful and things need to change, take the opportunity to change your behaviour as well as asking the other person to change theirs. This approach will bear fruit professionally as well as socially.
  • Be assertive – Take responsibility for your own life. It is very empowering when you find the strength to deal with daily difficulties through saying what you need or what you can manage to give to others. If you feel bullied or pressured by someone, find a way to enlist the help of others.
  • Manage your time better – Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. Plan ahead and remember not to take on too much. Home and work need to be in balance. If you are stretched in one area, ask for help in the other.

3. The Wrench – adapt to stressors

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of autonomy by changing your expectations and attitude.

  • Stay calm – If you find yourself late because of slow traffic, or a huge queue in the supermarket, or someone is late with information you need to get on at work: catch yourself and don’t allow your frustration to get the better of you. Take the extra time this has given you to think about something positive.
  • Get things in perspective – Stressful situations can sometimes overwhelm us. Ask yourself how important what is happening will be in the long run. This is one area where getting out into green spaces can be particularly beneficial. Putting things in a wider context can help us evaluate how much energy we should be giving to them.
  • Lower your standards – A common cause of stress is our thwarted expectations. Allow yourself to make mistakes and forgive other who do not meet standard which you have put in place for them. Get out of the habit of judging other people and it will be much easier to stop judging yourself. Loving ourselves helps us to love others.
  • Cultivate gratefulness – Take time each day to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life. Make sure you include all the things you are grateful for in yourself.

4. The Hammer – accept the inevitable

When stress is unavoidable, learn to accept it. The death of a loved one, or a serious illness are the types of stressful events which cannot be avoided. Accepting them and finding support, rather than burying ones feelings, can alleviate the symptoms.

  • We cannot control every situation – Many things in life are beyond our control. Staying focussed on the way we choose to react to problems is a means of managing the damaging effects of stress at these times.
  • Look for the silver lining – When you are facing major challenges, look for opportunities for personal growth. This might take the form of extending kindness to others affected by similar events. Extending kindness to other can help us accept kindness when it is offered to us.
  • Share your feelings – Talk to a trusted friend face to face or access a talking therapy or support group. The simple act of expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Sometimes it is hard to face our own feelings around events in our lives (especially if our feelings are not charitable). Discussing our feelings can help us work through them.
  • Cultivate forgiveness – Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

5. The Socket Set – relax and have fun

Making time for oneself, relaxing and having fun are essential to good health. It is very important to care for yourself, especially if you care for others. We can only be our best selves by giving ourselves the room to grow.

Walking and spending time in nature is soothing and grounding.At Vita Wellbeing we concentrate on ways to include easily established habits which will help to alleviate stress:

  • Talking with a good friend or with a therapist can help bring a fresh perspective to what we are experiencing.
  • Keeping a diary or logbook is another way of expressing oneself. Write down thoughts and include mementos of good days.
  • Make bath time a super relaxing experience by including candles and essential oils. Take time to enjoy it and be mindful of every sensation.
  • Curling up with a warm drink and a good book can help to focus our attention away from what has been worrying or causing stress.
  • Undertaking chores which are pleasurable, such as gardening or cooking, is another way to add an element of relaxation to the day.
  • Treating oneself to a trip to a spa; to a massage; or a wellbeing workshop, is a great way to give us the boost we may need to get things on the right track, or reward personal progress.
  • Appreciate a lovely meal with friends. At home or out on the town, breaking bread with loved ones is a pleasurable and relaxing experience.
  • Listening to music, especially live music, uses a different part of the brain and helps to ‘re-circuit’ us for relaxation and pleasure.
  • Practicing mindfulness helps us to relax and appreciate our experiences more fully. It helps us to stay calm and notice what is causing us stress, if the source is not obvious.

Build your personal STRESS TOOLBOX from the tips above and add in your own tools by focussing on your needs.

Give yourself a boost into forming new habits by joining a Vita Wellbeing consultation, workshop or weekend.