Cooking is not only a primal need but an indispensable part of our identity. Several documentaries, OTT shows, podcasts are produced to put a spotlight on the art of cooking. Chef blogs and cookbooks are garnering millions of dedicated fans around the world. Our mythological narratives involve masters of culinary arts who are worshipped as God-figures. In the current scenario, cooking is also a popular way of interacting online. People post videos and pictures of their best cooking avatars accompanied by super trending hashtags as ‘Homebaker’, ‘CookFromHome,’ or ‘RecipeoftheDay’.
There lies a special joy in realizing that nobody can replicate your handmade taste, just like your fingerprints cannot be reproduced. You can never forget the first time you learned to pick up the right ingredients for your recipe, attain the correct estimate of seasonings, whip new flavours, and then feel proud of the results. Cooking as an active hobby leads you to an elevated sense of well-being, as you are privy to the metamorphosis of nature’s raw elements into the most pleasure-inducing compounds.
After a tough day at work, a well-cooked meal is a chance to appreciate yourself. It is very sensual and out of ordinary to consciously indulge in the aroma of spices, feel the texture of farm-fresh vegetables or be awed by the alchemy of melting cheese. For instance, instead of buying a chocolate cookie from a patisserie, prepare your own cookie. Dip your hands in the chocolate, prepare a dough, give it a perfect shape, immerse it in the care of the oven and smell the sweetness of your endeavours, blending in your mouth, every bite of it.
Nowadays various mental health coaches and fitness trainers are suggesting cooking activities as a therapeutic remedy to recover from burnout, depression and anxiety. People are assigned with a tailor-made cooking routine in order to stimulate optimism, increase self-esteem and re-wire us for a life of solid decisions. On the physical front, cooking requires us to perform nimble movements of fingers, wrists, arms, limbs, necks and shoulders. Our muscles, bones and tissues achieve adequate exercise as we chop, cut, mince or roast using distinctive tools. Cooking not only provides us with healthy foods but also yields healthier versions of ourselves.
Chef Carlo Maria Ricci from Italy is ambassador at ALMA School, former luxury yacht chef, freelance hospitality consultant who often describes himself as being ‘fluent in food.’ He elaborately shares that, “Cooking is a therapy. One can’t engage in it without touching, tasting, feeling, smelling and “sensing” the preparation and ingredients. Sure, perhaps cooking for a large family on a tight schedule, like a lot of parents have to, is not always very pleasant. However, if you approach it as an activity to which one can dedicate time, cooking engages all our senses while also providing a delicious occasion to share conviviality and conversation with others. Now there are many who had a chance to dedicate their time to cooking during the lockdown and the fact that they have is, in my opinion, proof of how soothing it is! I hope this interest doesn’t fade away. I truly hope more people learn how to cook or even learn how to get better at it since food and cooking can only remind us of how social an activity eating truly is.”
Today’s kitchens are more than a mere interior design blueprint. A kitchen can also be a zone of Nirvana if you let it be. Working in a kitchen space can lead you to truly embrace the philosophy of carpe diem - seize the moment. Every little task involved in preparing the dish requires you to focus on the present. At the same time, you are boosting your willpower as you are passionately immersed in a single goal from starting to the end.
Johan Rudhag is a Swedish-born Copenhagen-based cooking virtuoso, a massive foodie and an aspiring diplomat who began his career as a former intern at the Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai. Talking about his culinary interests, he explains: “My relationship with food is something that I have built and nurtured for a long time. I can remember clearly how I used to help my parents out while cooking all the way back from when I was in kindergarten. As I have grown older, I have begun to treasure the art of cooking more and more as I constantly venture out to try and find new interesting cuisines and dishes to make. For me, cooking can be many things. It is not quite as simple as making food every day in order to survive. I treat cooking as a way to express myself in flavours, to evoke feelings in other people and bring ordinary ingredients to life. As a process, cooking helps me relax after a long day of work. It is also an excellent way to bond with people, as you exchange tips and tricks with friends, family and even the whole internet through social media. For me, cooking is a constant source of inspiration with an endless map of flavourful combinations to explore”.
The ability to prepare a meal is a sign of independence, for both men and women. We are said to be ready to live on our own, once we come at the age of cooking and driving. It doesn’t always have to be a Master Chef sort of fancy gourmet because we are doing this for our own pleasure. Nobody is going to judge your outcome. We can choose not to treat cooking as a job but as a means to achieve harmony between mind, body, soul and family. A home-cooked dish is also the best way to communicate to your loved one’s that you care about them. Cook your parents some bread and vegetables. Show them that you are not a freeloader and you can offer a worthwhile contribution to the table.
Moreover being a talented cook can get you very popular in your friend circle. It is said that men and women who can cook well, have an edge in the relationship market, isn’t it? A lot of us enjoyed the irresistible fun of gazing at the adroit Jon Favreau famously whipping up the iconic Spaghetti for Scarlett Johansson in the Hollywood movie Chef.
Jonty Redman is a cooking aficionado and a student of outstanding merit studying at the prestigious Australian National University. He rightly tells, “The energy you need to do all the activities in your life comes from the food you eat. As someone living on my own, I try to eat healthy food and also cook it myself. Take-away food is not sustainable. Cooking to me is about self-care. I also like to cook for other people. Canberra, the capital city of Australia has a very elaborate tradition of Potluck wherein you cook a meal, bring it to a person’s place but the person whose place you are going to doesn’t actually know what you’re bringing, so it’s a whole hodge-podge of different meals. Whenever I prepare food, I feel useful and skilled. I feel capable of overcoming challenges. It is also a good way to know, how much I can achieve if I am concentrated. Once I moved out, I came to appreciate the energy my parents poured into raising me and preparing all the food for me. When I cook food, I get fully invested in making the food. That’s not intentional, it just happens! Also, I like to listen to podcasts or music when I make my food.”
Cooking not only acts as a mental healer and physical exercise but is also a tool of globalisation. Every portion of food is infused with a story, history and centuries of communal traditions. Learning recipes originating from a variety of regions gives you exposure to new information and way of life. For instance, learning to cook gnocchi and researching about the base ingredients can teach you a lot about Northern Italy, the Roman Empire and the introduction of potatoes to Europeans. So when you eventually travel to Italy, you realise that your education of the regional cuisine has inadvertently trained you on conversing with the locals and exploring the landscape with stronger sensibilities.
Festivals around the world are embroidered with the culture of cooking. Cooking then becomes a ‘shared experience.’ Baking Christmas cakes or roasting turkey on Thanksgiving not only offers you the fun of holidays but also produces a good team player out of you. Group cooking sessions force you to keep your mobile devices on the side and actively engage with each other. Cooking binds people of different personalities together to communicate and work in synchronisation. Every single family member participates in the dynamic of achieving a common responsibility. Whenever anything goes amiss, brainstorm and come up with an innovative solution. The chitter-chatter that branches out as you all get involved in cooking a big fat meal are the memories of a lifetime. You will never forget that day of your life when you learned to cook a traditional meal and treasured your heritage.
When we perform a recipe, we agree to be the channel of a manifestation that is to be utilized by people to achieve a state of divine elevation. Cooking is not only about feeding the hungry but preparing something to be hungry for. It is about pouring pure delight into somebody’s vessel of existence. Cooking is the power we need to fill our spiritual vacuum and guide us in our universal Pursuit of Happiness. Therefore, as you cook, so shall you pray & love.