How Cooking Can Change Your Life Beyond Your Stomach
Cooking came into my life in an old-fashioned way.
I grew up in Russia in the 90’s, when housekeeping was still a part of the curriculum for girls in secondary school.
The most popular part of the subject was dedicated to cooking classes. The content of the classes usually included festive dishes which were prepared in a regular household only on special occasions.
None of the classes during the entire year were loved and awaited as much as this one. During the class girls had to split into teams, make a plan, and cook a complicated meal under the guidance of an experienced mentor, who was no different from our babushkas (grandmothers). We, girls, loved the subject dearly, and it took me a long time to discover that for some cooking can be a burden.
By most parents cooking classes, however, were regarded as useless, as they did not include any practical skills that would bring us further in life. Only when I started teaching cooking classes myself I realized that those kitchen lessons taught us something that no other part of the curriculum could.
Cooking classes were a truly creative process
When creating meals we knew what was the expected outcome and we had a “roadmap” for getting there. It was however the least regulated class, and there was no template for assessment of the result. When we were cooking we were in our element and had a full creative freedom.
Cooking together taught us teamwork and improved our relationships
We cooked in teams, and our work was neither micromanaged by a teacher, nor our roles were prescribed. It was a tiny self-regulated body which worked towards the same goal. We learned to understand and respect each other in the process. At the end we always shared a meal, the one that we created together, and this bonding experience over a delicious creation has brought us closer.
Cooking was the best break from books and desk-work
Cooking classes were a great switch of activities and environment. 95% of our time at school (and later at home) was spent at the desk, in front of books and computers, and cooking gave us a chance to take a break and bring powerful creative energy into a regular tiring day.
Learning how to cook affected our relationship with kitchen and food in a positive way
Later in life I met many people who believed they were not able to cook, and it often led to unhealthy choices for them and their families. Those who were exposed to cooking skills in their childhood mostly associated kitchen with a pleasant experience. When there is no fear of cooking, there are less chances to opt for a ready meal, and more appreciation for fresh and wholesome ingredients.
Surprisingly, whatever was true for our cooking classes at school appeared to be true for cooking in my adult life — be it for myself, within a family, with friends or with strangers. I enjoyed cooking after a busy day at work, because it always relaxed me and gave me a chance to switch from my routine daily tasks. Cooking became a creative process, a form of meditation. And when I cooked with friends, family or strangers, it always taught us to understand each other better and brought us closer.
The rise of cooking clubs and the popularity of cooking classes as a team-building activity are only a testament to a rising recognition of the positive affects of cooking far beyond our stomachs. Moreover, increasingly, cooking is used by therapists to treat depression and improve mental well-being. The same medium that is used for treatment, however, can also be wonderfully used as prevention.
Have cooking skills impacted your own life as well?