By borrowing from some general feng shui kitchen guidelines, we can improve how we cook and eat. Our kitchen environment is vitally important to how we eat. If you create a clear, well-ordered space in which to prepare meals, then you are more likely to prepare beautiful, nourishing food. A nice, inviting space means you will enjoy being there and will be less inclined to resent the time you have to spend preparing meals.
So getting your space right, is a crucial aspect of cooking well—and I’m not talking about superficial design, or the latest faddish trends. I’m talking about creating a space you LOVE to be in and LOVE to cook in! That’s what a feng shui kitchen does.
A feng shui kitchen
uses natural materials.
If everything else in your life makes it difficult for you to find the time and energy to cook, having a good physical space in which to work, will help counter the obstacles. You need a space that invites you in and makes it easy to cook. A space that nourishes YOU, while you work to nourish others.
This is the essence of creating a feng shui space. Feng shui is often misunderstood as a collection of superstitions. But it is in fact, an aesthetic science. It is about how your surroundings make you feel. Often too literal practitioners can distort this deeper logic and meaning and the sheer common sense of feng shui philosophy.
A feng shui kitchen is one which has a positive energy for you to be in as you cook and prepare meals.
Why is this so important? It is important because it is good to feel good! And it is important because how you feel in that space will influence what you cook and eat. I remember some years ago, I made the mistake of moving into an awful period house, which was dark and damp and had a horrible, pokey, run-down kitchenette. It was about as far as you could get from a feng shui kitchen. I had bought it as a restoration project, not thinking that I would have to live in it while I restored it! I found it really affected how I cooked and ate because I hated spending time in the kitchen area.
Heart of the House
The kitchen is the heart of the house and should be warm and welcoming. In Feng Shui philosophy, the stove is the seat of the household’s prosperity. This makes sense if you think about it—-if your stove space is not being used as it should, it is probably symptomatic of other things that are amiss in the family. A home where there is no cooking going on, will not be a home where there is likely to be health and prosperity, regardless of whether there may be two good salaries coming into the house.
Centrality of the kitchen
This feng shui view of the centrality of the kitchen is something that has only recently died out in the western world, before the TV took pride of place in our homes. The kitchen used to literally be the ‘hearth of the home’ in the days when we cooked on open fires and ranges. I think the continued popularity of range cookers demonstrates some deep need within us to have ‘the home fires burning’, even in the age of instant gas and electricity. My memory of the old cream, cast-iron range in my grandmother’s house, is so comforting to me even still, that I am seeing if I can track one down and have it restored for my own home.
Light in the Kitchen
And of course, light is an essential component of the feng shui kitchen. When I’m cooking on dark winter evenings, I like to feel cocooned in a warm, embracing space, womb-like and safe. On long, bright summer evenings, I like to throw open the double doors and let the sunlight pour in. When you create a nice space in which to cook, you will often feel that rightness when you spend time there, that lovely feeling of being in the present moment, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing—–feeling the order and wellness in your world. Sports-people call it being ‘in the zone’. Cooks can do that too! When you get that lovely feeling, cooking can be magic and a joy. This is the ultimate aim after all!
I don’t like cooking in windowless spaces, which depend on artificial light and ventilation and are often found in apartment blocks. These spaces discourage you from cooking. Our circadian rhythms attune us to daylight and appetite is connected to this.
In my view, when cooking, you need a window you can look out from and be able to open in summer. Enlightened planning legislation would insist on kitchen windows in new buildings, preferably south/west facing. Currently, the lack of good design in residential buildings could mean that the fat-cat developer you bought your home from, is affecting what and how often you cook, as well as the size of your mortgage!
Outdoors from the Kitchen
I like to cook in a room that links with the outdoors, to the nature which provides our food, even if only in a symbolic way. If you can’t have a door that opens onto a garden, or green area, perhaps grow some herbs in a window box, or plants on a balcony. If you can, try to make your kitchen one that is flooded with sunlight. In the Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing window, or door, will give you all-day sunlight. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite. In both hemispheres, a west-facing outlook is also beautiful, because you get both afternoon and evening sun, when most food-preparation is taking place. If your kitchen faces the other way, a skylight can catch the sunrays and make a huge difference to how you feel in the space.
The type of artificial lighting you choose for your kitchen is also important, because it creates atmosphere. Flourescent strip-lighting is not conjuicive to home-cooking and can cause headaches and migraines, due to the harsh glare and type of electrical field it creates. You need lighting to light up your worktops well, but not necessarily to flood the whole room with overhead light, which can be quite oppressive.
When I am cooking on dark evenings, I like to use the lights which run under the presses, as well as the extractor light over the cooker. This way my working space is well-illuminated, but the kitchen still feels intimate and atmospheric.
I like to use cooking and work-top islands, so I don’t have to face into a wall while I prepare meals. It also means they are easier to keep clear. Against-the-wall worktops always end up being used as a shelves and get cluttered with gadgets and other ‘stuff’, leaving little space to prepare food. If this is your problem, try running a small wooden shelf between the worktop and the presses and get all those jars and things up out of the way. If you don’t have to clear the way to make a space before cooking, you have one less obstacle to contend with. I also like to have the classic kitchen triangle of cooker-fridge-sink, which makes it easy to move fluidly as you cook.
Kitchen colours and textures should be calming and embracing, nothing too garish or demanding on your senses. Warm creams, pale greens, blues and yellows are good kitchen colours. Wooden surfaces and cork floors are more earthy and harmonious than stainless steel, or metallic surfaces and ceramic floor tiles.
Calming your Kitchen
If you have a TV in your kitchen, it will never become the calm, nourishing space you need it to be. Just as television in the bedroom disturbs our sleep, television in the kitchen disturbs our cooking. It takes our focus from what we are doing. It disrupts the atmosphere, dominating everything, including our own thoughts. It has an energy that prevents us from connecting with our own creative cooking energies. It prevents us from having respite from all the bombardments of life, while we cook. If you have a TV in every room in the house, wean yourself off, it’s not that scary! Allow yourself TV-free time to cook and you will enjoy cooking all the more, once you get over the initial trauma!
Detoxing Your Feng Shui Kitchen
I prefer kitchen units to be made of solid wood, rather than MDF, which gives off low-level toxic fumes over its lifetime, contaminating your kitchen environment. Real wood also has a different energy to MDF and if you can afford it, you will feel better being surrounded by it. Using natural materials is one of the fundamental tenets of creating a kitchen using feng shui philosophy.
Being careful not to use harmful chemicals is also important for a healthy feng shui kitchen. Detoxing is de rigeur at the moment. We go on detox diets, we plaster Japanese herbs to our feet while we sleep, we take drops of detox tinctures and we choose to eat organic. But one thing we overlook, is the toxicity we spread around our homes by using unnecessary chemical cleaning products.
There is very little in a kitchen that washing-up liquid, or baking soda, or vinegar and a dose of elbow grease will not clean! If that is a bit too home-spun for you, there are good ecological cleaning products on sale in health food stores. We do not need bleaches, chlorine, disinfectants and wipes of every sort, contaminating the place where we prepare food.
Ordinary cleaning with ecological products will suffice. If something does need to be disinfected, boiling water is a perfectly good, non-chemical method. Anyone who has seen the program ‘How Clean Is Your House?’ will know that the two cleaning experts, Kim and Aggie, rarely use anything other than vinegar, baking soda, washing-up liquid and tea-tree oil, even when faced with layers of filthy grime.
When we use environmentally-friendly, ecological products, they benefit us as well as the wider environment. They don’t irritate our skin and we don’t breathe in their fumes. We do not cover the surfaces of our homes with them, where they contaminate our food and come into contact with our children’s sensitive skin. We have homes that are healthier as a result. I would also recommend using eco-friendly dishwasher tablets, to avoid the chemical residue that is left on your dishes by other products.
Another source of toxicity I prefer to do without, is the non-stick variety. Non-stick kitchenware is coated with chemicals which emit fumes that are harmful to budgies and other small creatures. Personally, I don’t want to cook my food in them, even if they won’t kill me.
I also dislike the way the coating inevitably gets scraped and peels off. When this happens, where does it go, but into your food? For the same reason, I don’t use plastic spatulas and lifters. They melt with heat and the edges get stringy and peel off into the food. If you need to protect the surface of your cookware use wooden spatulas. And avoid using non-stick cooking-ware!