Cooking can be a lot of fun, but if you are not used to it, at first it may appear somewhat daunting. With a lot of good restaurants and healthy-enough ready-made food available, one may wonder why bother with cooking. Imagine that you came home from a busy day at work, and all you want is to eat something quickly. On the way home you bought whatever you liked in the shop that looked healthy enough, something that can be ready and warm in less than five minutes. You prepare it and you have the whole evening to relax. However, afterwards you feel even more tired. And there will be days like that.
Now imagine another scenario. Instead of buying an instant meal, you bought some vegetables, pasta and little bit of chicken. You are just developing your cooking skill so you start with something simple. The very thought you are going to create a meal is making you feel enthusiastic. Even though you are tired from a day’s work, you can’t wait to explore your new skill. Maybe cooking first started as a sort of a hobby for you, something you do occasionally in any given week, but now the more you do it, you realise it is becoming a skill. You come home, you wash the vegetables, you wash the chicken, you cut it all and put on a frying pan with some oil. Maybe you ask you partner, spouse or housemate to share in this preparation stage during which you chat about your day. Engaging other people in your cooking shows how you value their presence and it bonds you in a fun way. In the meantime, you put pasta in a pot of salted boiling water. You follow the instructions that are on the pasta packaging, and you let it cook for as long as it says you should. You keep stirring the vegetables and meat until it gets a nice brownish colour. Not even fifteen minutes after, you have your own meal ready and you enjoy it while it’s hot. Make sure to add some parmesan cheese for taste! Not only did you satisfy your hunger this time, but you also feel quite good since you cooked the meal yourself. Cooking helps you approach your health with a holistic attitude.
Healthy eating is not only about what we eat, but how we eat it as well. This time you had pasta, but next time you will explore something more demanding until it becomes almost a daily routine. The more we experiment with cooking, the more satisfying it will feel – for our stomach as for our inner wellbeing.
In other words, the attitudes and habits we develop while eating can lead towards health or away from it. Certain types of food will be unhealthy no matter what, but it is not enough just to ‘throw’ a healthy food in our system and not change anything else in order to improve our health. I find that cooking our own food, as well as a balanced amount of exercise can go a long way towards living healthy lives. It will even reduce stress!
Yes, you heard that correctly. Cooking reduces stress. Why? I could not tell for sure, but it could as well be that it focuses us on the present moment, slows us down, and by taking our attention for a while it forces our mind to think about the here and now practicalities of what we need to do in order to get this meal ready. This gives much less chance for the mind to wonder and ‘worry’. This could be a reason. But I would say that just the simple fact that we are creating something will in itself be fulfilling, and when the end result is also quite delicious it is just an added bonus!
A meal is much more than the food prepared, it is an experience. Many cultures meet around the table and share a meal together as a way of family bonding and deepening of relationships. I have not been much experienced in cooking myself, until I got a desire to explore it more in the last year. If you think you ‘don’t have it in you’ to cook, believe me, you are most probably wrong. I thought the same. All you need is to start, explore and develop at your pace. Your own food will be healthier than instant food, and cheeper than eating out. I can vouchsafe that cooking is going to enrich your life, and not only with food!
Below are some of the things I prepared recently.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 23rd March 2015; note that the above was not meant to be a ‘recipe’. If it was I would have added a sauce or pesto to improve the taste.)
All photos by © Iva Beranek
Bread and a traditional Croatian recipe from Northern Croatia (štrukle).
A vegetable tart.
Let me know your cooking stories!