As I mentioned in a previous post I find cooking relaxing and involving. It makes me cheery. I wanted to explore whether this is something widely attributed to cooking amongst the masses. It seems, today, that cooking is now an inconvenience; it’s a time consuming, and to some difficult task. These words aren’t normally used to describe an activity that is relaxing and cheery. However, in researching the effect of cooking I did come across some very interesting articles about cooking being used as a therapy.

Cooking is being used as a therapy for a range of behavioural, learning and mental disorders including: depression, ADHD, anxiety, and autism. It was found that by giving them a recipe it allowed them to focus their mind on a task. The weighing out of the ingredients; combining them, and then cooking them all involved concentration. By focussing their efforts on following a recipe it prevents their mind from straying, and due to this those with depression, or anxiety can be distanced from their emotions temporarily. Equally those with ADHD can find the act itself therapeutic and calming, and those with autism can seek comfort in the clear and logical steps and stages of a recipe.

The use of Kitchen therapy has been proven affective across all age ranges. An interesting article by the Wall Street Journal highlights its effectiveness from the teenage years onwards “A Road to Mental Health Through the Kitchen”. I thought then I would investigate a little into its effectiveness in primary schools as more children than ever are being diagnosed with learning, behavioural and mental disorders.

Mrs S White, a leading learning support teacher working in the South West of Scotland, has taught 5-12 year olds using a variety of modern methods using audio and visual therapy, a Maths recovery programme, and, of course, Kitchen therapy. She has witnessed an increase in focus; ability to interact with others; follow instructions, and enjoyment of school through only session per week. Across all of the children, from those with extreme physical and mental disabilities to those with behavioural disorders, kitchen therapy could be seen to have made a positive difference to some extent.

I suppose then the use of cooking as a therapy doesn’t have much of a different purpose than my everyday cooking. For those with disorders, and really any lover of food, the kitchen can be a sanctuary; a place isolated from your troubles that allows you to focus on something fun, calming and ultimately necessary. Cooking can bring a little bit of excitement and adventure into your everyday life; you’re never quite sure how it will turn out, and if you’re like me you make most of it up as you go along too.

Cooking is thus something more than just a necessary process to allow us to fulfil our physical needs. It is a way of fulfilling our mental needs as well.