Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thirteen reasons why cooking can make you happier

 I've always been fond of cooking. But as in many relations, there have been ups and downs. Times of intense activity, and times of pure neglect. When I was a young girl, before studying in England, I didn't care too much about health, fitness, long culinary preparations. While being a student in England, I totally gave in. I snacked on Twix and melted cheese, not caring about all the other food available, never cooking. I occasionally tasted local dishes, but on a daily basis, I was a barbarian! I don't regret it. It was part of my youth, a time of freedom and carelessness. I came back to France with ten more kilos. I didn't wear the same size of clothes, my cheeks were chubby, I was happy. When I met my future husband, I started eating too much, somehow competing with his much larger appetite and stomach. And I put on weight again.
Yet I have always loved cooking and caring about food. My mom offered me a book when I was eight: la cuisine des petites filles. And I passionately cooked each and every recipe, including the slightly tricky ones. I was so grateful for this precious present! It was colourful, surprising, gratifying.
I have always loved cooking for people too. I believe that this part of my life spent alone in my own flat, as a senior student, led me to less cooking because there wasn't someone to share food with, most of the time.
I have always loved arranging dishes, making them look pretty. And I have always been a lover of good things, good food included! ;)
Several moments in my life enhanced and developed my taste for food and its cooking correlate. Becoming a mom was the most important. It started with these little carrot purees I started making for my teeny tiny babe. And it kept developing as my baby kept growing, and as my family increased in number.

Having a family made it different. Cooking reached a higher level. I became more aware of the impact of food on health. When I was on parental leave, it reached a higher level still. For the first time in my life I had several babies to take care of, and time to cook real meals. I also had a much tighter budget. So cooking from scratch became a must. And I was stunned each day to see how happy it made me!

Now the babes are growing, I am back to work, my husband still has a strong appetite, and I have acquired enough experience to feed my whole family with care, with a reasonable budget, fresh products, abundantly but reasonably, while always keeping in mind the importance of health and pleasure that, I think, are inherent to cooking.
I'm happy to share here thirteen reasons why cooking has changed my life for the better.

1) Cooking is sharing.
My kids know how to cook. My younger ones love peeling veggies and spending time in the kitchen with me, throwing things in boiling water, cutting, pouring, washing...

2) Cooking is fun.
Manipulating textures, dealing with colours, seeing food transform, making combinations. It's a bit of science class mixed with playing house! Not to forget the immense pleasure of tasting the result of all these makings and experiments! Cooking favours creativity and washes stress away.

3) Cooking means intention. It means taking care of oneself and others. In a medical sort of way. In a mommy's sort of way. In a gardener's sort of way. It makes me happier. It means doing something with intention, and this might not be far from what Sachi wrote about: honmono.

4) Cooking preserves health.
I've enjoyed reading The hungry planet. The more you cook, the more you realize the impact on your health, and on your planet's health. Since I started cooking from scratch and making a real effort to keep processed food at bay, we gradually stopped going to the doctor. After a few years, we realized this stunning reality: we are rarely sick, and recover very quickly from colds. We are more energetic, we pratice more sports than before...So much time and money saved since we stopped being sick every now and then, especially in winter time. This is really worth the effort.

5) Cooking enlightens.
I have learned so much, not only about the actual process of cooking, but about the way food is produced. From agriculture to economy, from philosophy to geography, food partakes to so many different fields of interest. Add to this all the cooking associates, like oenology, wine tasting, but also chemistry. I have a whole collection of cooking books that I keep jealously on a shelf in my living-room.

6) Cooking means playing an active role in economy, through the careful choice of what you buy. It means you can have more control on what you eat. It can even mean you refuse to eat food that comes from animals that were ill-treated. You can stop eating vegetables and fruits soaked with pesticides. Cooking more consciously, I eventually bought my own chickens and extended my vegetable patch.

7) Cooking is educating: myself, my kids, my husband. It means discovering and enjoying new flavours, it involves the curiosity of tasting food from other countries. Discovering rare vegetables, exotic fruits, new dishes. Being respectful of our bodies, our environment.

8) Cooking develops organizational skills: planning, choosing recipes, adapting them to the number of guests and to the time of the year (a nice warm soup in winter, a sweet fruit sorbet in summer, veggies of the season...). Calculating amounts, quantities, proportions, distributing, freezing, preserving. It has a snowball effect. The more you cook, the more efficient you become.

9) Cooking leads to better eating. And this involves not only the amount of vitamins you will absorb, but also the quiet time you will spend together sitting at the table, sharing jokes and anecdotes, anticipating the pleasure of eating a meal prepared with love. If you cook, you might eventually ditch the overload of industrial, processed food that has become part of our daily lifestyle. You might slow down and take time to enjoy the process of giving food to your body. You might relax and feel gratified and grateful.

10) Cooking is love. It shows love. It shares love. It is family. It is friends gathered together.

11) Cooking is celebrating. It means Christmas. Thanksgiving (an event we don't have here, but I am slowly integrating it in my family's culture). Birthdays...

12) Cooking helps you lose weight (or keep your weight stable).
I once read this book and was struck by how true this might well be: traditional French cuisine may actually lead not to overweight, but to a stable, healthy silhouette. Though this is gradually losing ground in France, our traditional way of eating implies several courses, smaller portions, a little bit of everything: entrée, main and side dish, cheese, dessert...A meal cooked from scratch, with some variety, will lead you to eat more of everything and less of one thing. Hence a healthier lifestyle, a safer check on vitamins. I am a fan of French cook Cyril Lignac, because I think he's unpretentious, reasonable in his advice, and wise in his approach. Like him, I think young people shouldn't be forbidden to have a quick snack, but should be educated and slowly guided toward fresh, home-made food.

13) Cooking is beauty. Shall I say more? It is beauty on the outside. It is beauty on the inside. Sometimes both, sometimes not. How does it matter? There is the beauty of all the work involved in the preparation. There is the beauty of showing it, like a declaration. And sharing it.


  1. I love seeing the world through your eyes. You have a beautiful way of opening mine in all you say and do. I've never thought cooking (more than basics) might interest me, but your post made me see that I could possibly learn to enjoy it rather than see it as a task!

  2. Thinking that my way of seeing things can actually be good to others is one of the nicest comment you can make, Nancy! Thank you for that! As for cooking, I've had my ups and downs, but I am realizing now that it has always been present in my life, and that it has grown more and more vital and central for my family!

  3. Cooking is fun
    and looking at fotos that beautiful about someone else cooking, too!

    1. Thank you Hilke! I love your lovely blog by the way, so crafty and clever!