Stepping into the kitchen can offer mindful and meditative moments. Let’s try a little cooking therapy to bring a sense of calm to our often chaotic lives.
In difficult times, we seek to alleviate stress in a variety of ways, whether chatting to a friend, dancing like crazy, spending time in nature, meditating, or enjoying a long hot bath. No matter the remedy we choose – these can all be viewed as forms of therapy. Yet another form is cooking. Donning an apron and whipping up a batch of cookies can have more emotional benefits than you may realise. Cooking therapy is available to everyone, and can be enjoyed alone, with a partner, or in a group setting. Following a recipe, or even creating one, requires focus and mindfulness.
If life is feeling out of control, cooking therapy can offer certainty and self-worth. We might not be able to foretell the future, solve our financial strains, immediately fix personal or work conflicts – but we can bake a cake and bring a little love and deliciousness into the world. Here are some simple activities you might like to try as a form of cooking therapy.
RECREATE A CHILDHOOD DISH
Have you ever been instantly transported to the past by the smell or taste of food? This is referred to as ‘Proustian memory’ and is a result of our odour memory. According to Moss and Johnson, who have studied this phenomena, there is a “strong relationship between odour and emotion… from the part of the brain involved in processing odours being positioned within the limbic system – an area of the brain integral to emotion”. So, choose a nostalgic meal from your childhood. Perhaps a sweet treat that your grandma used to make? Dig out recipes for those family favourites and adapt them to suit your diet today. Lay the table, set up a beautiful space, and honour those memories.
MAKE PASTA FROM SCRATCH
Give yourself the gift of time. Just like making bread or pizza dough, making pasta from scratch can be a meditative process. It’s even a bit similar to art therapy, except you replace the clay with dough, ultimately creating beautiful pasta shapes, just like little sculptures. You’ll experience play, focus, presence and a sensory experience. It’s also physical without being exhausting. And after all this, you get to devour a silky-soft plate of fresh pasta.
MAKE FOOD GIFTS FOR FRIENDS
Food often involves sharing and connection. So why not create food gifts either for or with your friends? Giving is mostly centred around the recipient of the gift and how they will feel. But the giver experiences just as much pleasure in creating the gift. What a pleasant cycle of giving! Perhaps you can get together at a friend’s house and prepare food gifts together. You might bake a batch of cookies and create your own packaging and gift card. Or layer the perfect hot chocolate mix into a mason jar and attach a homemade label. Try preserving jams from seasonal fruits or pasta sauce from an abundance of tomatoes, then share them with friends, family, workmates, or neighbours.
HOST A TEA PARTY
Hosting a tea party can be just the escapism you need. Everything just tastes better at a tea party! When we delight in the treats we prepare and the company we keep at a tea party or tea ceremony, we allow ourselves to taste the beauty of life. Italians refer to this experience as dolce far niente or the sweetness of doing nothing. The Danes have their own term, hygge, which translates to a feeling or moment of pure contentment. The Japanese phrase ichi-go ichi-e, which literally means one time, one meeting. What a perfect reminder that there is only this present moment, this once in a lifetime occurrence. So, delight in time and treats with your friends!
Cooking isn’t just for function. Cooking therapy can be a transformative tool to include in our wellbeing toolkit. Step into the kitchen, clean the bench tops, pull ingredients off the shelf, and cook with love!
TIPS FOR MINDFUL MOMENTS
- Choose a simple recipe to unwind, relax and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
- When you’re ready to master a new skill, try more complex dishes as a form of artistic creativity.
- Create an inspiring space, fit for purpose. Play your favourite music and pour a glass of bubbly, wine or kombucha to get in the mood.
- Ensure you have plenty of time carved out for your cooking session. Be present in each step of the process.
- Enjoy the full sensory experience – awaken your senses and connect to each one as you cook.
- If you are craving social connection, consider attending a group cooking class or even hosting an online cooking party!