By Aoife Burke
Cooking has long been renowned for its therapeutic properties. What can be more relaxing than preparing food? To choose the food, wash, cut, peel, then cook. It’s very good for the soul. Cooking allows the mind to drift and you can play music while cooking, which I have seen many people do. When you are focused on the task at hand, it gives you a break from any other thoughts you may have on your mind. It’s a way of nurturing yourself and it can be a bonding experience for you to cook a meal with other people. It allows you to express yourself through the dishes you produce while promoting self-esteem and you get to have a delicious meal at the end of it.
It can be used to battle mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Cooking can also teach people the basics of budgeting for ingredients, as well as responsibility, like how long to leave something in the oven. What is more appealing than the smell of cooking food? It can be fun for people of all ages. Children can learn how to bake cookies or cook pasta dishes. They can put together a pizza and it teaches them responsibility. The reward is having cooked a meal together and the satisfaction of sitting down to eat it. Cooking doesn’t have to be dull or boring either. You can use “rainbow” ingredients, such as a variety of coloured vegetables, or, even if you are baking, using food colouring. You can cook with different types of pasta and make potato different ways.
The reasons for cooking are multi-faceted and you are creating something which is completely achievable, simply made from raw ingredients. You can sit down with a glass of wine with your meal afterwards. You are in control while you are cooking, and it allows you to self-express, not just with what you cook but how you cook. You cannot procrastinate while cooking, and you need to follow the steps, as they are in the book to produce a healthy meal. Cooking can be a way to release anger also. Think kneading dough or whipping eggs. You will feel so much better having an outlet after a stressful day. Cooking can be a way of treating eating disorders or ADHD. It can encourage a healthy relationship with food by showing how it is prepared.
The great thing about cooking is that there is always something to learn. No matter who you are, you can learn how to cook. The ingredients can be made into something such as buns, which you can then share with your next-door neighbour. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The result can be a greater sense of community and less isolation. You can even cook and raise money for charity. Another reason to feel good about cooking! The most important thing is that you enjoy the process and get therapeutic benefits out of it.