James Beard, Shortcake, and Reality


Is it blasphemous for a former nutrition educator and healthy eating advocate to highlight her mind-bending love for shortcake deliciousness?  There was a time when my vociferous, video-recorded, and frequently-written opinions would have screamed, "YES!"  But I am older now, and maybe a little wiser.  Maybe.  Certainly, I am happier without the weight of all those food-borne RIGHTS and WRONGS!

What I have come to believe (and know is true for me) is that our feelings about what we eat, what we think about what we eat, are infinitely more important than what we actually eat.  Or, more succinctly, "It's the HOW not the WHAT" (a saying, my children lament, I apply liberally to pretty much everything).  There, I've said it!  If this doesn't resonate with you, I respect and completely relate to how that suggestion may have made you cringe.  And you should probably try a different article, since what I'm about to share won't match your comfort zone.  If the idea does resonate with you (or if you find the concept at least a little tantalizing), I invite you to read on!

Here's why:  energy and mass are convertible (What?!  How does this pertain to shortcake?  Don't worry, it's coming!)  For about a gazillion and three years now, seers, philosophers, wisemen and the like have been telling us that everything we see/perceive as "reality" comes from our brains, our imaginings: all is illusion.  Quantum physics confirms that, too.  Well, the Double Slit Experiment has been saying for about 100 years now that consciousness/awareness/observation completely alters the dynamics of the wave-particle relationship, densifying the wave function into a solid something...but it's still hard for folks to swallow.  (Even some physicists can't comprehend what they witness in this famous experiment, since it SO does not match what we can see, and therefore believe to be true.)


Let me put it another way.  This idea—that through our beliefs we create only what we already believe—is illustrated powerfully by Richard Alpert.  Also known as Ram Dass, he is a beautiful spiritual leader whose path included Stanford, Harvard, LSD, and India.  Harvard wasn’t so crazy about the LSD part and fired him, which left him a lot more time for the LSD and India parts.

In India he found his guru, Neem Karoli Baba (also called Maharajii), about whom Ram Dass tells a fascinating story in the documentary Fierce Grace.  Maharajii once asked Ram Dass if he could try some of his LSD.  So Ram Dass did what any good disciple would do: he honored the request of his teacher.  Sharing the hallucinogens, however, worried Ram Dass.  Really, who wants to give your guru a bad trip?  Or worse, kill him?  Talk about bad karma!  So he provided Maharajii a choice of several pills of differing potency, holding them in his open palm for selection.  Much to the pupil’s horror, instead of selecting one, the guru scooped each and every pill from Ram Dass’s hand and popped them in his mouth.  YES, HE SWALLOWED ALL THE PILLS!  The student was aghast.  The guru was unaffected.  Maharajii had no belief that the LSD was real—experts would tell us he was in a state of non-duality—so even a large and "dangerous" dose had no power to affect him. 

I sat in amazement after watching the documentary.  How could a bearded guy in India eat a  potentially deathly amount of hallucinogenic firepower without incident, and I couldn't manage a slice of pizza without significant digestive retaliation? 

It didn't make sense, so I did what I always do: I dove deep into the research!  That research took me several places, and in the end, I decided I could at least understand intellectually what had happened.  And the good thing about understanding that someone else can do something, is it opens the door for the rest of us (look what happened with the 4-minute mile...folks tried for years to break that record, and just a short time after the record was beaten, it was bested!  The belief-barrier had been broken.)

I was not interested in ingesting LSD, but I sure wanted to to eat cookie dough, or a warm piece of sourdough bread, slathered in soft butter, without going under.  What I learned inspired me to train myself to see (and digest) beyond my previous beliefs.  I was able to liberate myself from many food-related convictions, so that I now eat mostly what sounds good to me, and DELIGHT in that ability (I still have trouble with tomatoes, for some reason, but I'll get back to you on that one!)  In essence, I don't (usually) let the energy behind a food thought ("Oh, Kelly!  Don't eat that; it's bad for you!") materialize into anything other than joy.

And, speaking of joy, I need to introduce you to the BEST shortcake I've ever made, thanks to James Beard.  It was his mother's recipe, and though he apparently omitted it from his more than 20 cookbooks, he supposedly thought this very recipe was the best dessert ever (though not the fanciest).  I'm much inclined to agree with him...and grateful to have the very unusual recipe available to share!  I hope you bask in the non-dual deliciousness!

A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, and so he escapes suffering.
— The Buddha
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This article was adapted from my book, Already Here: the matter of Love, though in the book I include one of my favorite cookie dough recipes!