After a grueling day of work, or a trying episode with our five-year old, or perhaps a muscle-searing workout, I need a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to calm my nerves. A fixation to steer me away from thinking about the pressures of life. Not that my life is difficult, mind you, but there are days when I’ve dealt with people who have made me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty fork or, worse, gouge their eyes out.
Six months ago I’d have opted for a cocktail. Nowadays I head to the kitchen.
It’s so nice that cooking, for me, is a form of therapy. It really does loosen my bones. I’m sure many of you cook for the same reasons. It’s nice, isn’t it, having that respite? Opening the fridge and pantry to see what you could possibly whip together? Or maybe you’ve even had an idea brewing while you toiled away with restless customers, unruly computers, or horrific traffic?
I’m by no means a pro; I would never pretend to be anything more than a guy who’s good at mincing garlic and grilling a decent chicken breast. I like to think I’m skilled, and getting better. Fancy kitchen and gadgets aside (of which I have a few, but a Chopped Kitchen mine is not), I can concoct a mean dinner. 10 years ago I dabbled. Now I take things seriously, and for good reason.
What’s funny is I do tend to get a little frazzled when I’m cooking. Weird, I know, considering this is all about cooking as therapy (I never said cooking was Zen). I don’t simply move swimmingly through my kitchen like a ballerina, doing plies when opening the stove, or pirouettes when going between the fridge and sink. God no. Instead, when I’m done, my kitchen look like an episode of Hoarders.
I think it’s the creative process that helps. Cooking is a lot of trial and error. Oh, this recipe doesn’t call for ginger, but I like ginger, so I’ll give it a shot! This slaw might work better with apples instead of pears, let’s do it! Hey, I’m going to roast these tomatoes instead of sauté, just to see what happens! Stuff like that. When I’m given that freedom, I feel like I’m in control, and I like that. Especially in a world where I sometimes feel like I don’t have a lot of control…you know what I mean?
I can sort out thoughts when I’m cooking. I can think rationally. I can go from being undecided about a life issue before I cook, then have an answer after. I might have been upset about something when I slice that first zucchini, yet feel calm and pragmatic when I’ve finished plating.
It’s not rocket science, really. Cooking feels good, therefore I cook.
I can’t expect it to work this way for everyone. My parter, for example, is not big on cooking. He boils frozen ravioli and he feels accomplished. I look at it and think, “I could have made that fresh.” That’s just how my mind works these days.
If cooking is a chore for you, I’m sorry. Maybe a real therapist can help you work that out.