|| Print ||
|Written by Will Parker|
|Thursday, 03 September 2009 00:00|
It's been one of those days again. It's the type of day where you wake up in your basement apartment to realize the soothing sound of the rain in your sleep was actually the sound of your house flooding. It's the type of day where you grudgingly agree to meet up for tea with your ex only to find out he's brought along his new girlfriend -- and she's prettier than you. It's the type of day where you just finished having some important documents signed by five different people, only to accidentally put them through the shredder.
We've all had those kinds of days. And we all deal with them differently. Some of us lock ourselves in our bedroom and sleep it off (assuming your bedroom isn't flooded). Some of us fix a soothing cup of tea, and relax with a friend (assuming it's not your ex and his stupid new mate bitchy-long-legs). Some of us fake sick, leave work early and go to the newest Harry Potter movie (assuming you're weren't already fired for shredding those papers). What I prefer to do when I've had one of those days is cook.
Everyone's familiar with the concept of emotional eating. The stronger the emotion the person is experiencing directly correlates to the amount of food the emotional eater consumes. Psychologists have suggested that this phenomenon may be largely responsible for North America's growing obesity epidemic. Their studies have implied that over the past few decades as North Americans have experienced less and less sense of fulfillment in their lives, they've attempted to counter feelings of emptiness with stuff. Without getting too Naomi Klein here, suffice it to say emotional eaters literally consume food to fill the void.
The emotional cooking phenomenon is not much different. We emotional cooks generally feel like whipping up a strawberry shortcake whenever we find out our favourite America's Next Top Model contestant just got booted for her lack of fierceness or throwing together a Moroccan chicken tagine whenever we learn our conceited sanctimonious jerk of a brother-in-law has just got another promotion. While we may not need to necessarily eat our own wares, we are compelled to take part in the baking process and kitchen rituals to quell any growing unhappy feelings. Emotional cooking is yet another way to fill the void.
While it may not be as hard on your waistline as emotional eating, emotional cooking does have its own drawbacks. Aside from being a rather time-consuming and expensive way to make yourself feel better, a very strange thing tends to happen whenever food is emotionally prepared. If you compare the same item made by the same chef on a day where the chef is happy versus a day where the chef is angry, the happy food will almost invariably taste better. As strange as it may sound, somehow the emotions seem to get mixed into the food.
Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has forever been a believer in cooking without fear, and putting on a happy face in the kitchen. She has noted that for some divine reason beyond her mortal comprehension, when she is upset and worried, it transfers into her food. It is for this reason she suggests that all chefs face cooking with a sense of courage and optimism. This is particularly so for complicated recipes requiring lots of sifting, folding, parboiling and tempering. If the chef is too worried that the recipe is not going to come out alright or that some terrible mistake is going to be made, more often than not, these feelings act as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Emotional cooks need to be aware of their ability to transfer emotions into their food. What is meant to be a soothing process of putting together a treat may lead to even greater disdain when the inevitable mistakes are made. If you're an emotional cook like me, I have a few simple suggestions for you to help avoid making sad food. First of all, don't throw yourself into a ridiculously complicated forty step recipe you've never made before if you're too busy thinking about how pissed off you are at your boss. Choose a standard feel-good classic that is both tasty and easy to prepare. Secondly, give yourself completely to the process of putting together your meal. Focus on the therapeutic chopping, kneading and mixing, letting your mind go elsewhere beyond the day's troubles. Finally, be brave in the kitchen, recognizing that you are an amazing cook, and you are going to be rewarded with a fantastic result at the end of your troubles.
It's important to recognize the potential for emotions to transfer into recipes. When a chef is upset, the food will likely show it. With that knowledge, it's easy to make emotions work to your culinary advantage. By now it should be quite obvious the reason grandma's pies tasted so good was because of the love she put in them. Being happy in the kitchen often means being happy at the table. So the next time you feel the need to relax in the kitchen after a horrible day, remember to think positive. Both you and the people you're feeding will be happy you did.