CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Music – “Happy Cooking” from Happy Cooking by Eiji Kitamura. Released: 1986
I think that most people, who really enjoy cooking enjoy it for several reasons: the need to create something, the need to bring enjoyment and pleasure to others (and to oneself), the desire to experiment and try new things, and the curiosity to explore other cuisines and cultures through food. Cooking absorbs one in both the process, the outcome and the enjoyment of the creation (or not, as sometimes happens!).
Cooking requires attention, concentration, inquisitiveness, the ability to not only follow instructions, but to modify those instructions, should that be judged instrumental in producing a more satisfying product. In short, cooking is no different from any other art form.
In browsing the internet recently, I came across the term “Culinary Therapy”. Being naturally curious and loving cooking, I researched the term and was surprised to learn that there is a dearth of information on the subject, including courses on how to become a “Culinary Therapist”.
It seems to run the gamut in terms of the outcomes: learning about diet and nutrition, using cooking as a stress-relieving leisure activity, providing the benefits of improved social skills and self-esteem, balance and coordination, improved memory and time management.
Cooking what is familiarly known as “comfort food” isn’t named that for nothing. The warm fuzzies we get when we taste the food our mothers or grandmothers used to make may bring back happy memories and be therapeutic in addressing behavioral issues in some people. Allison Carver, a Licensed Professional Counselor, has written a book entitled “Cooking Therapy: The Recipe for Improving Communications with Your Children through Cooking”. She wrote the book to encourage parents to use cooking as a means of communication with their children.
According to Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, Inc. “Idle time can fast become the enemy of any recovering addict following rehab. Nonetheless, with many recovering addicts trying to change their lifestyles and associate with different friends, many find themselves isolated and burdened with extreme boredom early on. Cooking can help fill this time nicely“.
A 2014 article in The Wall Street Journal, by Jeanne Whalen, indicates that many health care professionals are using cooking to “soothe stress, build self-esteem and curb negative thinking by focusing the mind on following a recipe”. She goes on to say that “Psychologists believe that cooking and baking are therapeutic because they fit a type of therapy known as “behavioral activation.” These activities alleviate depression by “increasing goal oriented behavior and curbing procrastination.”
Thus, the person engaging in the activity feels rewarded and accomplished, especially if the food is shared with others. While there haven’t been many studies conducted noting the effects of baking and cooking, one study did find that baking classes boosted confidence and increased concentration for those involved in the study. On the down side, however, Whalen notes that if patients do not adhere to the healthy recipes and portion control, they risk gaining weight, particularly if they suffer from depression! Which is the lesser of the evils?
So, kids driving you crazy? Get in the kitchen and take out your frustrations on a lump of dough. Hubby spending way too much time in his man-cave? Get out the meat tenderizer and pound the heck out of the schnitzel. You’ll feel better and your schnitzel will be all the better for it!