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Is there such a thing as Cooking Therapy?

Updated: May 28, 2022

What happens when you cook just because you want to cook? Not because anybody or anything requires it...

When my mind starts swirling like a tornado, I need to wipe my thoughts clean.

Sometimes I opt for a quiet meditation, eyes closed, palms open and resting gently on my thighs. I connect with the breath, my body. I pay attention to my heart. I start slowing down the storm of thoughts.

But sometimes I don’t want to be still. I want to be tactile. I want to create.

That’s when I step into the kitchen, grab those heavy jars from the shelf and line them up on an empty bench. This mise en place is a new beginning. A fresh start. The sweet anticipation of something wonderful to come.

Cooking takes many forms. It has the potential to be an act of presence, process and patience. But sometimes it feels like work. A big effort. Making the family dinner after a busy day. Preparing school lunches for your kids. Bulk cooking to get you through the week.

But what happens when you cook just because you want to cook? Not because anybody or anything requires it. Just because you feel like it. Because you want to put the demands of the world aside for one hour and create something. Because you feel like eating something delicious. That instead of popping open a packet of uninspiring cookies with a one year use-by-date you choose to grab the ingredients and mix and form them by hand, eating them straight out of the oven, all gooey and fresh.

Cooking for pleasure is therapy. And there’s more to this creative process than just the meal at the end. You could say the resulting dish is like the cherry on top. Similar to art therapy, cooking involves healing processes which leads to presence, satisfaction, reward and joy. Here in the kitchen, we centre ourselves, gather comfort, reduce stress, express creativity, problem solve, focus, connect with our body, create awareness, trust our intuition and unite with our senses.

If art therapy has sculpture, then cooking therapy has pasta making. You knead the flour and water by hand into dough, massaging and rolling. Turning a small piece into little ears of ‘orecchiette’ with the edge of your thumb or twisting long strands into sagne torte. This is creation, this is art.

At the end of the cooking process, there is something beautiful, sensory and tactile created. But perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience is in the sharing. Creativity is at its finest when it’s expressed in the presence of another, when it touches the heart of an audience.

It might seem unfathomable that cooking can reach such heights. But it can. If you welcome it in. You may think this is exaggerated, indulgent writing for the sake of this blog. However, this magic is all around you. The hasty gulps of a hungry teenager tucking into a home cooked meal, the excited giggle from the chef after creating a new dish, the closed eyes of pleasure after the first bite of a dessert.

Cooking isn’t just for the cooks. Painting isn’t just for the painters. There is no ownership to creativity. To enjoy creativity for its own sake, is a human right. A universal joy.

So let’s get started.

Choose a food you love. A flavour you keep returning to. A meal from your childhood. An experience from travel. A memory from your past. An elegant dish you always wanted to try. Start there. Celebrate the role that food plays in your life. The simple, everyday act of cooking. A chore that can be turned into art, therapy, pleasure and connection.

Clean off the bench top, take the jars off the shelf, calm your mind. Empty that space so you can refill it with joy.

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