A long work day concludes. My sons are running around, coloring, and watching a cartoon. I am chopping vegetables in the kitchen. My knife knocks the cutting board rhythmically. Onions, celery, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes slide into my prep bowl. I find a song to groove to on my iPhone. The butter sizzles in my green Dutch oven. I season the butter and dump the onions in to simmer. I work through the rest of the recipe. The vegetables sauté, filling the house with a lovely aroma, and I stir the mixture. I add other ingredients as I go along, savoring the process. From the living room I hear my husband and my boys talking and laughing with the occasional strong tone from the daddy, but I’m in my zone, my kitchen sanctuary.
Fast track an hour or two and the stew is plated, dishes on the table. I sit with my family and bow our heads in thankfulness. Sometime my boys eat it, sometimes they don’t. That result does not minimize the therapy I enjoyed earlier. It may frustrate me, but my two hours of bliss remain. Some nights we eat later than we “should,” but I count that homemade meal and that family dinner as worth it.
In my younger years I never would have thought that cooking a multi-step meal would be therapeutic, but now, I look forward to nights we have nothing planned. During work that day I cannot wait until I can spend time chopping, prepping, stirring, tasting, sautéing, and plating. Now, this is not every night, I assure you. When I am crunched for time or have a deadline looming, I go for a Trader Joe’s frozen meal or stop by Papa Murphy’s on our way home. I am not Julia Child by any means, but I absolutely adore the process and satisfaction of preparing a yummy and healthy meal. On certain days the idea of cooking dinner seems like a chore, but if I have the time, the ingredients, and the recipe, it functions as an escape. Don’t even get me started on baking. That’s therapy on a whole other level. Baking involves my little guys helping me on chairs beside me, which is extra sweet.
Time in the kitchen, whether it’s cooking or baking, brings such peace and relaxation to me. I can forget about whatever happened that day at work or whatever I am tossing around in my head at the moment. I get to focus on small tasks that produce something tangible that will fill my family’s bellies and hopefully make them smile. I keep coming back to that word “process.” I find that so much of therapy relies on a process: a series of steps or tasks that have a positive outcome. In cooking the process can be regimented if it’s a new recipe or it can be improvised if following something tried and true. Comfort can be found in those steps, especially when it involves good food, which tops my list of favorite things. Magic happens in pots and pans when I take my time and embrace the process.
So next time you are dreading cooking time, start a little earlier, put on some good music, and ease into the process. You may just find some valuable therapy there. And, I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes to cook!