Some of the saddest people I know have never chopped garlic.
This is a conclusion I reached after noticing the correlation between my friends who are always stressed out or in a bad mood and those who do not know how to cook a meal from scratch. I feel the desire to reach out to these people, like a priest to his parish, like Elton John to George Michael, like Madonna to Britney circa 2008. I know what they need and I know it can be put in at 180 degrees and left to simmer.
Cooking is the therapy that is far more pleasurable (and far less expensive) than sitting on a cream chaise-lounge for an hour whining to someone with a clipped tone of voice and pinstripe trousers (yes, the only experience I have of a therapist’s office is romantic comedies). It’s no secret that cooking is therapeutic – in the case of cookery shows, studies found that more than half of 2,000 people surveyed would rather watch a cooking show than cook a meal themselves. As much as I love cookery shows (Nigella and Bake Off are both not-so-secret addictions of mine), it simply cannot compare to the psychological massage of creating a dish myself to the soundtrack of Al Green and Corinne Bailey Rae.
If you think about it, the psychology of cooking’s therapeutic advantages is rather simple to dissect. First of all, we have to purchase the ingredients – we go into a shop with a list and a purpose. This cuts down time on wandering. Second is the preparation of ingredients – chopping, slicing, squeezing, grating – it’s all so sensory. Focusing on the motions and portions distracts us from worrying about other things we might ponder while waiting for a microwave to ping. Following instructions from a recipe is straightforward and logical, like being back at school but instead of following a maths equation, you’re sautéeing red onions on a low heat.
Sometimes it involves marinating, sometimes proofing. But just as you’re at the end of your patience, it’s ready and you can smell it from here. It’s soft, it’s warm and it was you, it was all you. You might have f****d up at work the other day and forgotten to pay the rent on time, but you’ve made this delicious dish all by yourself and it tastes so much better than anything Deliveroo could’ve brought you.
So you see, this is why I am a cookery evangelist. Not in the way of health nuts or wellness gurus, telling you to use butter substitute instead of butter (for God’s sake), but because I know the feeling of making something that feeds you. It’s a symbol of your ability to survive. You can only go up from here. Get more adventurous in the kitchen and you’ll get more adventurous in work and life. Once you learn how to poach an egg properly, you’ll find that there’s very little you can’t do.
The Best Recipes to start off with: