“Walking on eggshells”: have you ever noticed how many references to food we make in our daily language?
Food idioms are just another reminder that food is one of our main thoughts, especially in some cultures and countries (yes, I am Italian and yes we love food). While preparing our meals, we are often in a state of flux, just focussing on the rhythm of the knife that cuts the onion, the smell of those mint leaves, the consistency of the egg white we are whipping up, and then the pleasure of consuming our delicious food with someone we love and cherish.
Food nourishes us and those who eat with us, it helps concentrate on the task at hand, while reflecting on bigger issues and challenges in our lives. So that onion becomes the troubles you are trying to cut away, mint gives you a subtle energy to refresh your thoughts and move on with life and the souffle’ carries your hopes that a specific idea or project won’t deflate as soon as it’s out of the oven.
This is a personal space, where I reflect on my connection to food and the inspiration it gives me every day to think more and think harder to my business challenges: over time sourcing and preparing meals have become a sort of therapeutic approach to the everyday business challenges that would otherwise seem hard to overcome from the same level they were created.
In my job, I like to define myself as a renaissance marketer, one that truly loves to communicate and share the right message at the right time to the right person. I have worked in different countries for more than two decades (The Netherlands, UK, USA, Switzerland and of course Italy). Throughout my career, mentoring has always been part of my daily job, be it with current team members, former colleagues or friends who need a support and encouragement to develop their skills and careers in a fulfilling way.
Sicilian granita and brioscia, sweet memories of summer holidays: I was 18 when I spent a couple summers in Sicily and enjoyed the delicious food and the amazingly welcoming people there.
Sometimes some foods remind us of special moments, when we felt at our best, when one of our strengths was at its highest, and we could use it to be and act better.
What if we continue reminding our inner selves about this special strength of us through food? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had our own version of Popeye’s spinach, and just by eating that food, or cooking it, we resume that strength and remind ourselves to use it?
For me granita and brioscia is a strong reminder of a time when I was careless, young, when the world was at my feet and I had just experienced my first flight (of sooooo many, countless by now). I still felt like that this morning, when I enjoyed one strawberry granita and a freshly baked brioscia sitting in the sun.
Energy, awareness and thoughts create your reality. There is no doubt about that, and I am not talking about the mambo-jumbo “what you think will manifest” because we have all entertained thoughts at some point in out lives to win the lottery and marry Prince Charming. What I am talking about is shaping your reality by thinking the right things for you and putting our energy in them, day in and day out.
If you don’t like a movie, would you stand up and go analyze the screen to find out how you can change the characters in it and the plot? Well, unless you are delusional you won’t do it. You have a better chance at changing the movie by either pressing a button on the remote, by leaving the room or going into the projection room if you are in your imaginary movie theater, to switch the reel with another you like better.
Constantly keeping the focus on the things we want to achieve, how we want to become, setting aside criticism, and as one of my managers used to tell me “focus, focus, focus” is a sure way to get where you want to go and be who you want to be, which doesn’t mean to “fix you”, but to use your strengths to feel better.
I personally found that removing my inner critic is the hardest thing to do so when I am caught up in that vicious circle I try the no-criticism challenge: 30 days without criticizing never ever anything. If you fall and find ourself criticizing, you start counting from day one again. Almost impossible, I know. But if you try and put your attention to welcoming the negative inner voice, offer her a tea and then let it go away, you will be happier than before the challenge I promise.
So, following the Queen’s suggestion, can you think (and therefore create) six impossible things before breakfast? It will take some exercise for sure, writing them down, reflecting on them before going to bed, journaling, creating vision boards, defining a plan to get there, removing obstacles and putting constructive energy towards the impossible…but the reward is worth the effort.
Tea is my favourite drink, more than a drink really it is an experience.
Brewing my first huge cup of chai in the morning (#chandernagor), enjoying a smoked lapsang souchong in the afternoon or a genmaicha with a friend always makes me feel better and more centered.
I get my morning Chandernagor tea from a little shop in Milano: I normally buy one kilo and it lasts for a couple months (yes, I drink a lot of it!) and now that I moved to the UK I have to be even more organized with my “doses” as they don’t ship outside of Italy.
The simple act of boiling the water, simmering the mixture of spices and black tea for two minutes, then adding milk and boiling for another two minutes, leaving the aromas develop and fill the air for two more minutes, then filtering and drinking slowly. I don’t like my morning chai too sweet, I don’t like it sweet at all while I know the real chai is made with lots of sugar that adds to its flavour.
It is a ritual, one that prepares me for a long day and sets the tone for the rest of the morning, no matter what is in my to-do list. Any ritual per se is grounding and soothing, reassuring to some extent on the fact that everything is going to be alright, giving back some sort of control over the external environment and calming the mind. When it involves tea, spices and beautiful vessels it also brings back many lovely memories like this exquisite cup bought in Japan at Gorakadan Onsen.
That must be the reason why so many cultures use tea and coffee as “mindful” moments, although it would be more correct to say mind-empty moments, since the focus on the preparation, and all the senses involved mean that there is very little mind and rationale going on, and a lot of instinctive repetitive and tasteful no-mind at work here.
There is an expression in Italian “essere un prezzemolino”, almost literally “to be like parsley”. I think the equivalent in English is “to have a finger in every pie” and the meaning is clear: it indicates someone who is always in the middle, who turns up everywhere. What I find amazing is the difference between these cultures on what it is that omnipresent: in Italy we use parsley and in the United Kingdom it’s the pie that’s everywhere.
Other than this taste difference, though, the reflection related to business that originates from this idiom is that sometimes we think the more we are seen, the more we obtain successes and recognitions, while those who are not always “in the middle” get pretty much unnoticed.
Well, this is obviously not always the case: in my mentoring experience, some of the young women I worked with had this very feeling, to be seen and heard every possible time by upper management, while instead I tried and suggest that their actions and results speak for them louder than any other initiatives.
Clearly these results need to be tied directly to them, and they have the clear responsibility to take credit for what they have done. As an example, I used to write on my resume’ “support this and that initiative” or “help launch this or that product”: my then mentor had a good lesson for me on assertiveness. She told me that if I was the owner and the responsible for that initiative or launch, I should have used more direct terms like “manage” or “own”.
There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between choosing when to speak and when to act, and strike a healthy balance between the two. It surely comes with experience, but we can help our mentee identify opportunities to step up…or step down.
Remember the parsley, there IS such thing as too much of a good thing!