“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” – Craig Claiborne
Mindful activities can be found in every room of your home, but there is no room riper for mindful opportunity than the kitchen. Cooking is necessary, sure, but it is also tactile, creative, connective and engaging for all of the senses. The preparation of food is something that most of us are involved in every single day, and with such busy lives, it is sometimes hard to find some time to give your brain a bit of space. Your cooking time, if approached with enthusiasm and care, is the perfect opportunity to turn a necessity into something more; something that will help to stimulate your brain and to boost your health and wellbeing.
Personally, I love to take on a little culinary project every so often. Having something personal to work on, something just for you, is a wonderful way to escape from your daily stresses and to nurture your own soul and learning. Many of the following kitchen skills are ones that I have mastered over a series of months, sometimes years; and they have, without exception, brought me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. I hope that you will take these on and get a little nugget of personal joy for yourself.
1. Bread Making
I love making bread. Bread is such a basic staple, yet it is so satisfying to make from scratch. The process of making it is great for the mind for many reasons. First of all, the dough; forming it and kneading it, is extremely tactile. This helps to alleviate stress, and is also a great chance to let your mind wander. The process also encourages one to exercise patience, as you go through the rising and proving stages. The smell of bread in the oven, the crack of a well baked crust, the taste of your first successful sourdough. There is nothing like the multi-sensory simplicity of butter melting on a warm slice of fresh, home-made bread. It’s a real skill and achievement, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go.
2. Learn to Joint A Chicken
Eating meat is a rocky subject these days, and with fair reason (which I won’t go in to right now!) It is my belief that we should be connected to and grateful for the food that we eat, weather it be a humble carroty or a prime cut of beef. I learn to joint a chicken myself for three reasons; one, to save money, two, to learn how to use the whole animal, and three, to better appreciate the animal that was feeding me. Aside from that, it is also a great culinary skill.
3. Pasta Making
Like baking bread, making pasta practice, diligence, trial and error, and skill. All of these are good things to exercise in every walk of life, to my mind. Nailing a great fresh pasta is awesome. My favourite sensation is the feel of the pasta on your hands as you roll it through the machine; smooth yet floury, luxurious yet meagre. A real treat when you crack it for the first time.
4. Fillet A Fish
This is a tricky thing to do, and something which I have not yet mastered. When we buy a fillet of fish from the supermarket, perfectly pin-boned and pre-packaged for our convenience, we are missing something. Not only does it not resemble the animal we are consuming, but we forget what a skill it is to prepare it to such a consistent standard. Learning to fillet a fish for yourself is another great opportunity for gratitude.
5. Perfect A Dish
There are many occasions on which have tried a new dish and hailed it as terrible and inedible. This was not usually because the recipe was bad, but because I was annoyed that I had done it badly! It takes determination and a little self-reflection to perfect a dish you find tricky… so if this is a situation you recognise, why not go back a few times and see if you can perfect it (apologies to any friends or family members who may have to eat early incarnations of your stroganoff or paella)?
6. Celebrate an Unfamiliar Ingredient
We have all gotten stuck in a food rut before; cooking the same things week-in, week-out. For some people this works wonderfully well and is super convenient, for others it can be frustrating. If you are the latter then I encourage you to buy an ingredient that you have never used before, and base a meal around it. This will make cooking the meal an exciting event and help to push the boundaries of your culinary ideas. Give it a go… might be fun!
By Chris Thomson
Mindfulness can be achieved through many seemingly simple tasks and activities. This is a great one: Writing for Mindfulness
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