Tag Archives: food

“What Would You Like To Order?”

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As I sat peacefully in a fine dining restaurant, under the shade of a cool tree, I could not help but overhear the conversation at the table next to me.  A young couple, clearly in the early days of courtship.  Tremulous excitement.  Uncertain but hopeful air.  Attempting to decide upon mutually appealing fare as smoothly as possible.  They spent some time discussing the menu and then it was time to place the order.  

But the steward had other plans. With an air of authority, his confidence stopped just short of arrogance.  The couple before him were clearly no match.  The young man was anxious to please his date.  He hesitantly ‘suggested’ a dish they had discussed.  The steward responded with disdain, politely verbalizing, “Wouldn’t you like to try … instead? Our chef is particularly good at pastas.”  Visibly nervous, the young man glanced at his friend who had begun shaking her head in negation. “I don’t like pasta too much,” she pouted.  This put him in a fix.  He tried placing another order, but the steward was beginning to look displeased.  The lady also began to feel intimidated, doubting her own tastes.  “Are you sure it is good?” asked the customer.  Despite the affirmative, he asked another three times, in different ways.  Essentially, unknowingly, asking for assurance as they all knew that they would finally settle for the steward’s choice.  

As he walked away triumphantly, the two looked crestfallen and yet relieved.  “It should be good.  He told us so.” muttered the man.  “Yes, I guess no harm in trying.” she replied with a little disappointment.

While it is perfectly fine to solicit information and advise and be willing to experiment, seeing the dampening effect on them, the following observations came to mind:

  • It is easy to be influenced when we are not sure of our selves.
  • We give away our power easily to those in authoritative positions.  A steward can make you change your choice of food, a doctor your choice of treatment, and so on.  While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and relying on another’s expertise, the question is, have you chosen your ‘expert’ with awareness, or through fear?  Is this a conscious evaluation or blind faith?
  • Despite having doubts about the congruence between the steward’s recommendations and their own preference, the customer failed to find the courage to voice them.  How often do we silence our inner voice and what does this cost us?  More than a meal I am sure.  Where have you stifled your own choices because of someone else’s influence?
  • Once he had relegated his power, repeatedly asking for assurance hints at how we attempt to justify the actions we have given in to.  The initial error is now re-framed by seeking reasons to rationalize it.
  • The feelings of discomfort are obvious and palpable, but ignored.  All they had to do was acknowledge that neither of them was happy with the order, call him back and change it.  But instead, they both pretended to be fine about it and even perpetuated the pretense with each other.  Again, what does this kind of masking cost us in other areas?

Who we are reflects in all our spaces.  And sometimes being observant in one area can lead to useful insights in other areas of your life.  So the next time you pick a new restaurant, do notice how you go about choosing your experience.

PS:  In case you are wondering, they did not enjoy the pasta after all. And drew the radical conclusion that they should avoid this restaurant in the future.  Rather sad, because the food and ambiance are excellent actually.   They just never took the opportunity it offered, but relied entirely on someone  else instead.

Image Courtesy:  Marylou Falstreau

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Dive in Deep

“When the smells from the kitchen
Overtake the awareness,
Reading the menu loses its appeal.”
Wu Hsin

Since I started sharing some food snaps on Facebook, several of my friends have been complaining.  They say I should be giving them samples of the dishes I prepare.  Simply tempting them with attractive photographs is unfair.  Providing recipes is not enough either.  They want the real thing.

There is no substitute for the experience. 

Because food is such a sensory experience, it is easy to understand their point of view.  From the sizzling sounds of a saute, the aromas of a curry, the vision of a decorated dessert, the texture of a perfect paratha to the overwhelming satiation of the taste buds by a delicacy – food leaves you no choice.  You are seduced into wanting to ‘know it’ and will not settle for less.  You will not settle for poetic descriptions or well captured photographs.  That is the power of our senses and their hold on us.

But there are matters of deep importance that do not present themselves as loudly, and yet remain a persistent voice in the background.  The  fundamental questions that lurk in every heart.  Such as:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?  
  • What does all this mean?  
  • Is there a purpose?  
  • If so, what is it?  
  • If not, then what?

Your list may vary a little, but I am sure you get the gist.
More than looking to arrive at conclusions, exploring these in itself has great merit.
And as you pay attention, your answers will change over time.  As will you.

Most of us tend to park our inquiry aside for another day, but I choose to question this Retirement plan.  

The above quote from a non-dualistic teacher had me remembering how I used to feel that fully engaging with life and non-duality cannot go hand in hand.  But my experience has taught me otherwise.  It seems it is time to live from an awareness of the simultaneity of wave and ocean.  And for that, we cannot remain with intellectual discussion alone.

We read the books, we listen to the talks, we evaluate the newer teachers and choose our favorite points of view.
We debate for and against.  Succumb to the lure of captivating concepts.
And never test the waters.

Life is best understood in the living.
As Wu Hsin goes on to say,

“[Likewise,] one cannot learn to swim
While remaining dry.”

The nuts and bolts of everyday living test us and remind us throughout the day.  And if we are honest with ourselves, most of us on the path would find places we are still working on.  Its not as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.Where ‘awareness’, ‘unconditional love’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘letting go’, ‘allowing’, ‘accepting,’ and ‘Oneness’ are not simply intellectually and emotionally appealing concepts – but something you attempt to live in every moment.

When we fail to apply it, we become victims of our own jargon, reducing the wisdom to cliches that end up resulting in self sabotage.

So the invitation is to dive in deep – test the waters for yourself.
Theory only helps us  know about it.
To know it, we have to jump right in.

Whether hot or cold, calm or still, obscure or clear – I would like to experience this wave-ocean rather than simply talk(or write) about it.

How about you?  Wouldn’t you rather eat than look at the pictures?

🙂

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Image Source: BoardingPass.Gr

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9 Buffet Tips That Can Be Applied To Life

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Even if the menu says ‘All you can eat‘, what you get out of the meal is largely up to you.  Much as is the case with life. Like the generous spread on offer at a lavish buffet, we are offered a wide variety of experiences.  And just as we can navigate the meal in different ways with varying consequences, so it is with life.  It has taken me a while to learn the ‘art of eating at buffets’ and I felt many things understood there are equally relevant to the way we move through life.  So here are 9 parallels one could draw between enjoying such meals and life:

  1.  Run a quick survey first:  Instead of loading up the plate from the start, an observant glance around the table will give a good idea of what is on offer.  While it may be tempting to think one can sample it all, going by the number of dishes put out on the average buffet these days, it would be wise to be more discerning.  Similarly, there are number of interests and experiences available out there, but realistically, we cannot sample them all.  Having a general sense of what you would definitely like towards the top of your list and what you can live without is a useful place to start.
  2. Decide what you don’t want:  The older ideas of sampling a spoonful of everything before deciding on the mains is now simply impractical.  You will either end up overeating or be too full to really dive deep into the flavors that appeal to you.  The body knows what it would like and what is good for it.  Those inclined can learn muscle testing to quickly and discretely discover what would work for them.  In life, mindfulness can just as easily guide us as to what would be appropriate for us.  The thoughtful pause is extremely useful in making conscious choice a way of being.
  3. All that glitters is not gold:  Attractive looking dishes may not make for the healthiest of food.  Artificial colors, additives and unhealthy ingredients can often look appealing but prove costly in the long run.  Which one of us has not had difficulty in resisting temptations in life?  But here too, short term indulgences can lead to expensive, long term consequences.  Sometimes the best things appear simple and you may miss their true merit if you go by appearance alone.  Weigh the pros and cons carefully.
  4. Don’t be afraid to explore: Bearing in mind the above, you can still experiment with the unfamiliar and unknown.  We tend to stick to old favorites, even checking the spread with an intention of finding what we liked the last time.  Be open to discovering something new.  If you never ask ‘What is good and new?‘, something fresh and wonderful may be under your nose, but you wouldn’t see it.  We often need to unlearn our old ideas in order to see radical shifts in our lives.
  5. Choose quality over quantity:  Anything in excess can prove detrimental to one’s health.  Selective portions of pleasing items can appease the taste buds and yet not be excessive.  We can practice the same discernment in life, displaying a wise moderation in our choice of activities and behaviors.
  6.  Make room for your favorites:  I have no qualms about having a sweet tooth.  So I ensure that I have a look at the desserts section at the very beginning and adjust my other intake accordingly.  I feel the same way about making room for sweetness in life.  There is no point in filling our hours with activities (or the lack of it) and depriving ourselves of whatever it is that really makes us come alive.
  7. Remember tastes differ:  One man’s meat is another man’s poison.  The beauty of having so much diversity on offer is that everyone is free to enjoy what suits them.  This is also true about diets, religion, philosophy, healing techniques and so on.  So live and let live.
  8. Value everything:  People seem to believe that the only way to get value for an expensive meal is to overeat.  Which implies that the only thing you are valuing is the quantity.  Whereas you are actually also availing of taste, ambiance, space, comfort, pampering and so on.  So don’t worry about stuffing yourself, but do make sure you appreciate the finer nuances of the dining experience.  Ever seen the modern day, typical tourist?  They seem so busy clicking pictures to take home ‘memories’ (or demonstrable evidence of their travels), that they forget to actually experience memorable moments.  Don’t pass through life blind to all the gifts it offers you.  The moment you widen the scope of what you value, you will find yourself appreciating each experience with a new depth and sincerity.
  9. Appreciate generously:  A lot of painstaking effort goes on behind the scenes, to make possible your heavenly dining experience.  If you like something in particular, do make it a point to pass on your compliments.  Look around you and notice how many people have contributed towards whatever joy you are experiencing today.  Have you thanked them for it?

What insights have you gained from your own buffet outings?  Do share your comments below.

 

Image Kind Courtesy: Marylou Falstreau (all rights reserved)

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Don’t Get Caught In A Pickle

Caught in a pickle

Every family has their secrets. Some are the pink elephants of traumas, tragedies or other unspeakable tales. Some are the revered ones, such as traditional knowledge or crafts, that are guarded like the family jewels, passed carefully from one generation to the next. In the rich depository of such ancestral inheritance, what I considered exceptionally valuable, was a recipe for mango pickle.

Sounds innocuous, but if you had ever tasted this delicious sun-dried, spicy mango delight at my grandmother’s, you would understand. It seemed unlikely that any other preparation could ever match that taste.  After her demise, my uncle took over. As he got older, the preparation became my sister’s responsibility. An essential requirement is the stark, dry heat of Nagpur or Nasik. In my mind, this is how I rationalized the difference in taste from the other Maharashtrian pickles available in Mumbai. That and of course, the exceptional ‘family recipe‘. To me it was as precious as the traditional medicine for jaundice that is passed on in a cousin’s family. Or as notable as the anecdotes about another ancestor’s medical prowess. It was unique, and our own special inheritance.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Hyderabad for some work. Our hosts were kind enough to take us out for a sampling of the local thali meal.  I cannot describe my shock at finding ‘my’ pickle in my plate.  I was even more stunned to discover that this was the popular Aavakaya pickle.  Every Andhra household prepares this and my friends were confused and surprised at my excited reaction.  A couple of them offered to bring me homemade bottles, as most of them had it at their homes.  I was humbled and delighted, all at the same time.  I now had easy and limitless access to this delicacy.

But the irony was not lost on me. Despite having a liking for spicy food and having sampled many pickles, I had not ‘discovered’ that what the younger family had assumed ownership over was actually a given in a far larger collective. The rich variety and diversity of food and culture in India does make familiarity with all foods near impossible to the lay person.  (I have no idea how a South Indian recipe became a staple part of my centrally located grandmother’s recipes.)

But how easily we become proud and possessive of something that actually belongs to the whole world.
Just because of our ignorance.  Because of our limited knowledge and experience.

When one applies this across other subjects, the gravity of the repercussion is self evident and significant.  We debate over ideas and beliefs, one region against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.  Vociferously, righteously clinging to our claim over what are often universal truths and planetary gifts that we mistakenly believe we own exclusively.  Only because we view them from some historical, blinkered perspective, often relying on mythical memories to back our version of things. Makes me wonder, how much of the rigidity and conflict would dissolve – if we began to respect how much we all have in common and that  we have simply failed to see – nothing is ours alone.

The same also applies to what we consider our unique failings and challenges. In Marathi, we have a saying, “Gharo Ghari matichya chuli“.  What it implies is that every household that you visit, essentially faces the same challenges.

In a conversation about plagiarism,  I heard that some people deliberately do not attribute credit to the original source whose quotes or teaching they share.  Because if they have subsequently lived it,  they feel that they can now ‘own’ it.

Perhaps eventually, we will come to realize that all roads lead home and far enough down these roads – all paths are one.

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Guest Post: ‘Food is my friend’ by Amanda Owen

I recently came across a wonderful blog, ‘The Power of Receiving‘, by Amanda Owen. This particular post, ‘Food is My Friend:6 tips for Mindful Eating’, is in complete resonance with my Serene Expression intent. So I am reposting it here with Amanda’s kind permission.

Amanda Owen's Blog

Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

Thank you for this food we are about to eat.

Many of us grew up with families who began each meal with a blessing. These prayers followed people from generation to generation like an affectionate family member showing up when everyone sat down at the dinner table.

These days, this honoring ritual is largely absent as we pick up food in a bag at a drive-through window, eat from cartons taken directly from the refrigerator without bothering to put the food on a plate or sit down, and spend meal times separated from family members.

When did our connection to the food we eat become so distant and problematic? Many people have a love/hate relationship with food; they disparage particular foods even when they crave them. They say, “I want you—go away!” Doesn’t…

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What does your cooking say about you?

Who you are shows up in everything you do…  

Consider this:  If its 2 minute noodles that you make when you have to cook – well, that could mean you like to get things done quickly, without a fuss, just meeting the basic needs of the moment.   If you add in the cheese, vegetables or the eggs – you probably have an interest in flavor, as long as there isn’t too much of a fuss.  Or you aren’t completely insensitive to nutrition and self care.  On the other extreme, if you enjoy preparing an elaborate 7 course meal, then this could mean a willingness for hard work, liking for details and an interest in sensual tastes!

This thought came to me as I prepared my nth salad in the last few months.  One of the reasons that I make them so often is of course the fact that I have found a great supplier for my greens.  But there is certainly a great deal of alignment between making Salads and who I am:

Salad

  1. Keep it Short and Simple : I have a preference for crispness, essence, efficiency and speed.  
  2. Start with what you have:  I rarely look up a recipe and go shopping for ingredients.   My cooking is usually a putting together of what ever is on hand.  My approach to life has been pretty much the same… if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.  Or reach for the tequila and salt!
  3. Be Resourceful and Adaptable: I generally make things up as I go along, modifying the process as per what happens along the way.  
  4. Enjoy Variety:  A small number of ingredients can be mixed to provide a wide range of tastes.  Keeps things interesting!
  5. Make it Colorful:  The bright, radiant colors appeal to me not only in food, but in life.  I like to think its been a fun and colorful life.
  6. Be Health Conscious: With my personal life and work both revolving around matters of holistic health and well being, this is a given.

I could go on with this flattering list 🙂

But the point is to encourage a similar introspection for you…

  • What do your cooking habits say about you?
  • Do you now notice something you haven’t appreciated about yourself?
  • Do you now feel there is something you would like to change?

If you find this inquiry interesting or helpful in any way, do share your insights as comments!

Recipe: Iceberg Salad

Iceberg lettuce + Cottage Cheese + Yellow Bell Pepper +Black Olives + Cherry Tomatoes + Green Pepper
Tossed in Olive Oil + Salt + Paprika + Dried Basil & Oregano

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Friends and food so go together…  One of my closest friends is one of the most awesome cooks I know.  As is his wife.  Their home reflects the generous, loving hospitality of the best of Punjabis.  You can rest assured that even the briefest visit to their home will leave you satiated and grateful.  Not only for the delicious food that they serve, but the loving attention with which it is prepared and the intense attention that is given to the finer nuances.  And more than anything else, the wholeheartedness with which the guest is made to feel pampered.

Years ago, this friend was famous for his beach barbecues.  He would marinate the foods from the day before and carry bricks and coals.  Then everyone would drive out to Marve beach and under moonlight, he would assemble the tandoor. Painstakingly preparing the tandoori delicacies for the entire party.  Amazing and touching.  Stuff the best of memories are made of.

For the last decade or so, I have come to count on his thoughtfulness.  Whenever he visits my place, we usually eat out.  He was most understanding about my disenchantment with cooking, knowing that I had grown weary with all the complications of cooking as a caregiver for those with dietary restrictions.

How we tend to lean on friends.  It has been only too convenient for me to maintain this arrangement. But now, with my relationship with cooking having healed – I was more than happy to cook a meal for him.  Spinach pancakes, a greek salad and an experimental sweet dish.  After having stopped use of  baking soda(high sodium) for twelve years, I finally prepared a cake again.  The Basboosa turned out to be interesting, though I used half the suggested syrup and served it with glazed strawberries.  Will probably use even less syrup next time!Basboosa

But my friend’s delighted appreciation of the food was welcome sweetness indeed.  Glad I have returned some of the happiness that has been served to me so often.

We easily fall into patterns in our relationships.  Sometimes they become a little skewed, and it is important to ensure that counting on someone does not lead to taking anyone for granted.

So while I delight in the way I am taken care of, there is also great joy in being there for my friends, in different ways.

It’s always nice to give back… from the heart.  And a delicious meal is always a good way!

 

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December 1, 2012 · 6:08 pm

Are you nourishing yourself?

My client is a diabetic.  When I asked him about his relationship with food, he was surprised by my question.   He said he takes no interest in food.  He has no liking for it.  He confessed that the last time he relished a meal was 10 years ago, when he went on a holiday with friends.  For ten years, he has had absolutely no interest, curiosity or appreciation for the healthy food his wife cooks for him.  He says that expensive, fresh fruit lie before him, but he will not eat it, despite knowing it is good for him.  Meals are treated like inconvenient necessities. During the meal itself, his attention is continually on his business, or on the television news.  “Further,” he added, “I often repeat to my children stories of our difficult times, when having food on the table was a challenge. I have to say I tend to emphasize the poverty rather than any gratitude for today.”

He went on, “For that matter, I have lost touch with all friends.  I have no hobbies and I don’t take interest in grooming myself either.   I just don’t seem to care for myself at all.”  He was stunned by all that had been triggered by my one question.

Our attitude towards food is a great metaphor for the extent of nourishment and nurturing that we allow our self.  Just like the air we breathe, these inputs are what allow us to enjoy a healthy life.  If we treat it with casual disdain, or even worse, an inconvenience that we somehow have to get over and done with, what degree of self care and benefits are we affording ourselves?

Because he had recently purchased Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, I asked him if he had read the affirmation suggested for diabetes.  With a sheepish look, he confessed he hadn’t.  I shared it:  “This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.”  

In the last session, he had successfully learnt how to use EFT to get himself to exercise on a daily basis.  We now discussed how he can shift his relationship with food using EFT and awareness.

I would be happy if this article were to provoke a similar self appraisal for other readers.  Any issues that arise out of such introspection can be addressed through a conscious shift in habits.  If required, you may like to try EFT for yourself.   You can download a free one-pager here, or get my book Emotional Freedom Techniques.

Related Article: Lifelines – and why we cut them off

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Healing Kitchen + Red Radish Apple Salad

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
~ Hippocrates (often referred to as the father of Western Medicine)

My grandmother was extremely knowledgeable about food and herb remedies for a wide variety of diseases. At an early age, I was taught that almost  every herb, spice, fruit and vegetable could be a powerful, natural and effective remedy.  She was naturally attuned with plants and animals and told me that many of our rituals that required women to gather flowers and particular plants for ceremonies actually had hidden benefits of exposing them to oxygen rich, healing environments.  In hindsight, I feel faith held more power over the people than science and hence useful practices were garbed in religious rituals.  Today, with science being elevated to the status of an unquestioned God, these practices have been reduced to meaningless dictum, rarely understood or practiced with useful intent.

I am slowly building up a ‘kitchen’ and ‘healing’ garden and every time I pluck a leaf, I am reminded of my grandmother’s words…”Apologize to the plant for breaking off any piece of it and give it your sincere thanks.  They too have feelings and we must respect and honor their energies.  Because of them, we are able to partake of this nourishment.”  Her simple wisdom has been proven true by any number of scientific observations that have measured how plants respond to external stimuli, communicate with each other and the inter-connectedness of it all.   This simple conscious act of gratitude is in itself greatly healing, because it reminds us of our place in the world.  The world does not revolve around us; we are a part of a larger whole.

Rich in anti-oxidants, vitamin C and other micro-nutrients, this low calorie salad happens to contain ingredients that can help build immunity and combat cough, cold or flu symptoms.  It also has an interesting, delicious taste! Give it a try and let me know how you liked it…

By the way, honey and ginger are great for the throat, and Oranges (Vitamin C) or raw garlic (natural antibiotic) are very effective for colds.

Red Radish Apple Salad

Ingredients

8 small red radishes, thinly sliced
2 small red apples, cored, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped greens
Dressing:
1 tablespoon Mustard Oil Dressing
2 finely chopped chive stalks
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons Honey
Paprika
Salt

Method:

  1. Prepare dressing
  2. Coat radish and apple slices well in dressing
  3. Toss in the assorted greens

Enjoy!

This article is for informative purposes only is and is not intended as a substitute for medical advise.

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How are water crystals and EFT relevant to your meal? (EFT script)

“Thank you for the food we eat…”

 

For  those who are familiar with Masaru Emoto’s work, you would have seen the beautiful images he has captured of water crystals, after exposing the water to words like love and gratitude, or after prayer.  Quoting from his website: “The result was that we always observed beautiful crystals after giving good words, playing good music, and showing, playing, or offering pure prayer to water. On the other hand, we observed disfigured crystals in the opposite situation.

Given this dramatic demonstration of change in physical structure, due consideration should be given to the energy with which we cook and the practice of prayer/grace/thanks before our meals.  Just as we are 60% to 70% water ourselves, our food also has a high water content.  In today’s hectic world, we tend to eat in a rush, scattered and absent minded, or worse still, while watching television which may be bombarding you with more depressing news and horrors.  

Isn’t all this going to impact what nourishment we receive out of it?

I am most gladdened to know people who are conscious of such impacts.  The Aman Setu School at Pune is a school with a different approach than most.  One of the things that they do differently, is that they have incorporated mindfulness and Emotional Freedom Techniques into their  daily routine.  EFT works at a deep level, harmonizing energies as well as addressing the mind.  They have been using my ‘EFT for Juniors’ script on a regular basis with the children.  This school year, I was delighted to receive a request from the school for an EFT script to be tapped in before meals.  So I promptly sent them one and it is now being enjoyed twice a day at the school.

If you would like to learn more about EFT, please see my book: Emotional Freedom Techniques,  or download the free EFT Basic Recipe  to give this script a try.  While it is not advisable to practice any energy healing technique immediately after food, tapping this in just before your meal is very likely to change your experience for the better 🙂

 

Karate Chop left               As I sit down to eat
Karate Chop right             I am thankful for all those who made this                                                 treat
Eyebrow                             The sun that poured in all its strength
Side of the Eye                  The water that helped it grow
Under the Eye                   The earth that nurtured and cared
Under the Nose & Chin   And the fire that cooked it slow
Collarbone                         So many have worked from dawn to dusk
Under the Arm                 Birds and butterflies, cows and                                                                      earthworms, too!
Wrists                                The farmer, the shopkeepers, the driver,                                                    the talented cooks
Back of hands                   All their efforts have brought me this                                                         healthy meal
Top of head                      And I now gratefully enjoy this tasty feast

 

Do share your feedback here and if you like the idea, please share this post with others.  Thanks!

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