Christmas and Hanukah reveal the chef inside me. I just took Fanny Farmer chocolate chip cookies out of the oven for the third time in 10 days. I could do that recipe with my eyes closed and they’d still turn out, I’ve made the very same ones on so many lonely Saturday nights that I’ve honestly stopped counting.
And though I am not the greatest cook, I believe cooking is great for me. Cooking is grounding.
To describe. Cooking is grounding because the food I prepare fills my belly when I’m done. This is due to the fact that I’m fucking hungry just before I cook, and doing so tells me I’m about to eat, which fills me with unequalled hope and other pleasant emotions. The equation is simple: on one side of the equals sign is most of my problems, and on the other side is a picture of me smiling and wiping au jus from my face.
Furthermore, I verge at times on hunger’s slightly less emotionally regulated, demented cousin, “hangry.” A good portion of the most fulfilling cooking-events throughout my life happened after I had waited way too long to eat. And as the sage noted, “eat when hungry.” But I am nearly positive he/she just forgot to also mention to “eat when hangry.“ If only they’d thought of it. Eating food is guaranteed to remove hunger and “hanger,” and looking forward to that while in the process of preparing food is pleasant in a way I call grounding.
Preparing food is also grounding because it’s inventive. True story: I used to cook for myself when I was a bit poorer. Oft times as a teenager, I went from despondently scanning our sparingly stocked cupboards to turning out an edible three-course meal, sometimes even for my buddies, too. It was creative. A piece of bacon, half a broccoli, butter and some fettuccini. Voila! These memories are conjured when I cook. They remind me of the fun I had creating something from nothing.
Keep in mind, my mom had to feed my brother and I when our teenage bodies were expanding on a daily basis, a growth that was facilitated by our unique ability to wolf down several days’ meals’ worth of food and then take long, unearned naps, behaviour patterns seen only in some dogs and bears basically operating on a gorge-fast cycle.
Moving on. Cooking also reduces anxiety. For starters, hunger causes a type of anxiety that only eating can quench- the anxiety of not knowing if you’ll have enough to eat. Poverty also makes hunger worse in that you don’t have as much food going into your body, which in turn could exacerbate anxiety on a physiological level. It’s therefore easy to see how eating- including the preparation of food- might protect against anxiousness, especially the type related to poorness and hungriness.
Also, the act of making food can clearly be made into a mindfulness practice- which is good for anxiety. Working with our hands, creating something, following a recipe, chopping vegetables, seasoning meats. Each produces inherent gratification because of their meditative aspect. Further, cooking is often done to feed others, and contributing to others can boost feelings of gratitude, connection and help us to enjoy the moment. Helping others basically helps us feel better about ourselves. Cooking is an ideal thing to do for someone else.
(Ahem.. cant help but to reflect on the positive impact on romantic intentions- themselves often hampered by anxiety- that can be wrought from some garlic and butter sizzling in a pan).
Physical tasks like food-prep are also naturally therapeutic. Work such as cooking, painting a bedroom and gardening inspire mindfulness, but they also produce something quite tangible. Making things can be good for us. Doesn’t hurt that with food, we get to eat it afterwards.
Finally, cooking is grounding in that it smells good. Can we not agree that certain kitchen odours, such as onions in olive oil, ought to be studied one day for their anxiolytic effects? Maybe they already have. Try it sometime. Remove anxiousness by making some good-smelling stuff: Cookies. Toast. French fried potatoes.
Who doesn’t like the smell of coffee, even if actually drinking it might contribute to anxiety? Who doesn’t love snapping open a fresh kielbasa, especially if your wife is vegetarian and eating sausage is like dining on rare burgundy truffles? Who hasn’t noticed that the food court at Sherway Gardens is one of the few places we can take a well-earned break from fast fashion outlets and Hudson’s Bay sales reps still hawking “Fahrenheit”? It’s the one place in the mall I can be myself, order the same, steaming pile of tempura that the last guy got, and allow myself to simply witness the ecstatic dance between MSG, my salivating tongue, evaporating hunger, and Christmas shopping. It’s like coming home.