Cooking together has so many more health benefits than just the nutrition it provides. I want to share a little about what I have recently observed about benefits of cooking together.
To start it makes me think about other cultures and how they eat and prepare food. What is it about the Mediterranean diet that makes it so healthy? What is it about the Japanese culture? We know the food is part of the equation in the Mediterranean diet with
the abundance of fresh vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, legumes, nuts, moderate amounts of meat and seafood and dare I include the delightful pasta, but the growing of food, cooking and eating together seem to me to be such important and special components.
The Japanese at primary school have lunch as quite a ritual. Food is cooked, delivered to the classroom in bulk and students and teachers serve out the food that everyone enjoys and appreciates together.
Is it the benefit this provides to our mental health? The togetherness, being with family and friends,...satisfaction with the achievement of making food that people love, all of this and more. The breaking of bread together.
Cooking builds relationships, at home, in the work place as a bonding activity, as a social activity with friends. Relationships need team work, effective communication and respect. The kitchen I see as developing these skills, including patience and resilience at times! Having positive relationships benefits our mental health which inturn is positive for overall health.
In my own home I find cooking the evening meal by myself a chore. When the kids pitch in or my partner comes over and it is done together the whole experience changes. It becomes a social, fun activity with chatter about the events of the day. It becomes relaxing and a way to unwind. The meal even tastes better as love and gratitude rather than resentment has gone into making the meal!
I see my children enjoy cooking with friends, working together, proud of their accomplishment, building confidence and it gets them away from ‘screens’ for a while too! Phew. The energy in the kitchen is vibrant.
I have enjoyed a few cooking courses with friends over the years. they have been some of the most enjoyable and motivating experiences. the sense of achievement in making new dishes. The socialising, cooking and eating all in the one setting. It is so much fun to share the kitchen experience, learning new skills, watching disasters and trying again. It is the sharing and having friends around that makes me happy and energised!
I take cooking session with the Hawthorn footballers to develop their nutrition. If they can cook, they are more likely to eat nutritious foods. It is great fun in the kitchen, I get to know them better building my relationship with them as well as their own within themselves in a different team environment to the footy field. They are competitive of course even with cooking, asking me, 'who’s dish is best', so the relationship building can be at risk when I need to choose between them! It shows them cooking can be enjoyable, especially if with others.
At work places I conduct cooking demonstrations. It is always great to get a few staff involved cooking away, on the barbeque and everyone gets behind them and is supportive and encouraging of their work mates. the room becomes a buzz with everyone's positive energy once they start getting their hands dirty and people are involved.
Food brings people together. If cooking is pleasurable we are more likely to cook. If we cook, we are likely to choose more nutritious foods than eating away from home. So what you eat is important nutritionally, but the act of preparing and eating together seems to me to be important too.
Simone likes to share her expert nutrition advice. Read more