Cooking with less, I’ve pretty much got that down. I can substitute and scrimp and still produce something pretty good — and healthy. I can create meals that cost a few dollars, full of markdown produce and meats that rival take-out. What I have realized is that I’ve also got cooking with stress down, too.
When I’m stressed out, a nap, preferably outdoors, sounds great. A glass of wine and a book near a river sounds delightful. Or a long, long mind-emptying walk would work, too. All of these are wonderful relaxants, but not particularly practical for my daily living. Which is why I cook. I realized the other day just how important cooking is to my stress management. When my mind gets cloudy and my mood foul, the easiest thing for me to do is head into the kitchen and let it out.
My predilection for dishes with a lot of stirring are not practical for the everyday. When life is busy, even a short meal preparation of 20 – 30 minutes can be transformative. Over the last 5 weeks I have devoted the majority of every day to studying for some professional licenses completing some pretty epic 12 hour days. When I hit my wall around 5:30, I could either retreat up to bed and hope that dinner materializes (which often it does thanks to my sweetie), or I can head into the kitchen and use my hands to create something nourishing. Even a simple Cobb salad with crisp bacon and creamy avocado can be a satisfying dinner in a time crunch. Stir fries with basmati rice are quick, too. Suddenly my mind stops racing and my fuzzy eyes clear up and I feel human again standing over the stove.
Cooking is my primary mechanism for managing the stress in life. Maybe it is even a secret ingredient in some dishes. We all have our ways of dealing with life, some run, some tune out, some ignore it. I cook and even if just for a half hour, I have a release.