Saturday, June 29, 2013

Healing through cooking

Have you ever been rescued from a depressive episode or trauma by a passion of yours? If you've ever been through a trauma and could bounce back to normalcy, you would be grateful for those little passions you cherished a lifetime and would know what I was referring to in my opening line. I never knew I had  a passion until 2008 when I went into a depressive phase.I knew I had lost interest in work and hated going back to my institute. I took a 3 month break and felt like a loser for making that decision. My self worth was shattered into zillion pieces and I could not forgive myself for breaking down. What I did not know then was that this was my first breakdown in a series of more to come. Depression can be ugly, it is a mental asthma if anyone asks me to describe it in a word. Your mind feels asphyxiated all the time and you are aware of this 24x7. I was ashamed to break down especially after my diligent study of psychology. That's when my doc asked me what activity in this whole wide world could rejuvenate me? It took me a while to realise he was asking something non academic. After all I was so immersed into work, I gave up everything else for academics. It's my hubby who then said " Cooking, she loves to cook". " That's great then, your assignment is to cook something special every day, challenge yourself, and surprise yourself".

I have been cooking since I was ten. It was an act of survival. With a working mom and no helping hands one learns cooking if rightly initiated. I loved eating too but I never thought of cooking as a stress buster or a passion. I was impulsive and bent rules to my liking. I did the same with cooking and when my dishes turned out well, I assumed I was lucky. But that year, I started looking at cooking differently. I started wondering how cooking was a scientific yet an artistic activity. I discovered movies, documentaries and books that shared views of people who loved to cook. And in no time I was hooked onto cooking reading voraciously recipes, their history, new ingredients I had not heard before.

Cooking heals our soul and I think any activity that heals, needs the feel of building up or creating something. It's natural because creation is the opposite of destruction and in any crisis you find a part of your self destroyed. And what you wait for in that lull period thereafter is to create, restore, build up that portion of your's that's lost. Just like a surgery reconstructing a part of you, just like putting back those lego blocks altogether, just like moulding that piece of clay that broke under too much pressure, you wait for that one activity that can put you back to shape. I have always found pottery and cooking satisfying for this reason, the fine product reminds me I made something that's visible to me.It always reminds me of the healing happening within.

There could be many other possible reasons why cooking is healing. It is an indulgent activity, requiring lot of precision and takes up so much of your attention that you forget all the brooding and bad thoughts that haunt you. Have you ever cooked in bulk? I once made 7 Choco apple tea bread to salvage a box of apples I bought from Kashmir.It was a painful process chopping chocolate to coarse pieces, pureeing the apple to prepare a sauce and baking them one after the other. I did this because I needed a task larger than I had ever done. I knew it was physically strenuous and I was trying a new recipe so trying 7 cakes at once was  crazy. But when I saw the cakes cooling on the the rack I realized how relaxing it felt to just stand there embracing the warmth of the oven, smelling the fresh baked goodies. Every time I do a large assignment, I go crazy mostly because I don't intend to take over large assignments but then I challenge myself to go forward and make a small step out of my comfort zone (baking one or two cakes is comfort zone).My hubby tells me he thinks I am crazy in the kitchen and this does not look like stress busting. I agree with him that things do get chaotic, I lose patience, I yell and am pretty much the mad woman but it's the final product that soothes me. Plus the fun of sharing it with loved ones.So sometimes crazy things do happen in the kitchen and yet it's healing. It makes you a lot calmer and confident than you were before. People say before every storm there is a calmness to me I am calm after the storm :)

Something else that makes me fall in love with cooking is how colourful things are in the kitchen they just brighten my day. I choose ingredients that give me a collage of shades. I choose a decor and appliances to go along that matches my idea of a colourful palate. Seeing colours makes me happy. It's like gardening for some, that bright feeling you get when you see your flowers. I get that seeing my ingredients and the final product. I look at  a pizza and say '' that's a beautiful collage'', I don't know how many of you would agree with me on this. I even visualise how my goodies would turn out to be, and this in turn motivates me to cook most of the time.

Cooking is also a time when I indulge in my second favourite activity- listening to music as well as singing. This has been beneficial to me and my cooking. I guess many of you who cook do it this way. Nothing motivates me like my favourite song when I start a bake-a-thon :). Sometimes music as well as dishes you cook evoke good old memories which in themselves have a healing power. And by the end of my day I feel good about myself. Each time I make something new I know I have nailed it and I look out for new adventures- that's what being passionate is all about. I am aware that not everyone loves cooking but that's maybe because it's not your thing or it's not your thing yet. Maybe running is your thing or painting or writing. I can only tell you how cooking healed me but I believe we all need a passion to indulge ourselves in a mundane world where we end up doing things we don't enjoy for  a living ( well some of us do that don't we?) And chances are that you might snap/break/asphyxiate/die once in a while.So you need those little tricks under your sleeves to get back to life. Mine is cooking what's yours???????