Some people zone out by reading a good book, or achieve spiritual bliss doing a yoga session – I enjoy spending a couple of hours in the kitchen, rolling, cutting, blending, mixing and baking. Even though, to my husband, it looks like I am getting stressed out and frustrated, my brain is still switched off from all the other worries of the world and is only focused on thickening the sauce, piping the macaroons in perfect circles and chopping vegetables into even chunks. It’s proven, and has been researched and documented by award-winning neurologist Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty, that if you allow your brain to be distracted and ‘zone out’, as well as engage in extremely habitual tasks, such as cooking or showering, you are likely to increase the dopamine flow in your brain. This makes you feel good, relaxed and will encourage creative thoughts and ideas.
It’s my creative outlet
In the daily world of Instagram, Pinterest and social media in general, design and photography are a fairly accessible and achievable way of expressing your creativity. To me, cooking is my creative outlet. Yes, I love taking photos of my puppies, the beach and my loved ones, but nothing quite does it like an artistic shot of my culinary creation, styled to look like a glossy magazine cover – think Donna Hay & Gourmet Traveller! Not only do I get inspiration from magazines on how to plate and present my dishes, I could happily sit for an hour flipping through my cookbooks (the ones with the pretty pictures!) to get myself in the right frame of mind and whip up some home baked goodies, or surprise my husband with a decadent, chocolate dessert. You’re probably not surprised to know that I never get complaints about my passion for cooking!
It challenges me
We’ve established cooking takes me to a happy place. I have to go further and admit that I also feel a huge sense of achievement conquering a new recipe, or nailing a tricky dish. Challenging yourself is a healthy way of getting to the next level in any of your pursuits. This applies to cooking too, and setting yourself some goals and benchmarks ensures the challenge remainsfun and enjoyable.
Spending 4 hours in the kitchen on a Saturday, brainstorming, shopping for supplies and preparing a 3-course elaborate meal is my kind of challenge – working towards a deadline. You either achieve your goal of serving dinner, or you don’t, it’s black and white (serving dinner at 10pm, to me, doesn’t count as achieving your goal!) . What I like about it is you can’t push out your goal or say you’ll start next week. This isn’t to say you have to achieve a 10/10 score every time (by your family, or loved ones of course), but once you start, you can’t really throw away all the fresh produce you’ve just purchased, so you push on and try harder to get to some kind of result in a reasonable time frame. I find it exhilarating! The beauty of it is… if you don’t nail it, you have cooked a meal that you would still have to cook otherwise (unless you burnt it to an unsalvageable crisp).
It makes my family happy
Best of all, I cook to make people happy. While achieving your own personal goals is gratifying, making others happy, or receiving a compliment on my cooking, is the ultimate gratification for me. I love cooking with butter, sugar and cream, and there is no hiding that if you have seen some of the creations that leave my kitchen (see Ginger Crunch, Chocolate Cherry Ripe tart, Chocolate Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse). Providing my family with their ‘treat of the week’, seeing their eyes light up with contentment, not only making them happy, makes me happy.