Thursday, January 7, 2010

Alton Brown on Cooking to Reduce Stress

Do you find cooking to be relaxing?  Fun?  Exciting?  If you're a fan of Alton Brown and his Good Eats show, you can likely answer 'yes' to at least one of those questions.  I found myself giving conflicting answers when I read the article Cooking Away Stress by Judy Hevrdejs of the Chicago Tribune this morning.  It made me ponder: Do I really enjoy cooking and does it help me relax?  My first reaction was 'Heck no!  I'm tired of trying to crank out meals for my family and scrape together a menu and go shopping twice a week.'

In the article, Alton Brown describes the act of cooking as very relaxing and a big stress reliever.  This level of enjoyment obviously lends itself to his endless creativity with Good Eats.  Alton mentions, "Slicing, dicing and chopping — the rhythm of that is something I enjoy and find relaxing. But I also really, really, really like to knead dough. I like the physical action of getting my hands into it. … I find that physically rewarding."  This is the essence of a hobby and one that somebody truly enjoys.  Whether gardening, woodworking, or cranking a wrench on your old car's engine; we can all find a bit of solace in losing ourselves in a project for fun.  Thinking of cooking in this light made me think twice about my initial reaction.  Maybe I do really enjoy being in the kitchen.

When given the time by myself to cook I treat it as a hobby, even if I am preparing a meal for others. I love trying new recipes or just experimenting with what I have in the fridge.  I get excited when I pull out my shiny Wusthof blade from its case and going to work at the cutting board; all the while managing two or three things on the stove.  I get into my element and find my groove.  That is what I call the Joy of Cooking.  It's not without frustration, there are a few dishes that have gone directly to the garbage disposal, but the majority of the time I find satisfaction with the end result.  There is something more though.  When I can share my cooking with others, there is real pleasure when they say how good it is or ask me how I put it together.  Looking back on yesterday afternoon and I picture the look of delight on my grandmother's face and my daughter and I expressed how good everything tasted.

Good Eats has been a staple in my TV diet for years, not only because it is entertaining, but because I'm always learning something.  What I have learned this week is not about losing weight or what foods I should eat, but rather that if you want to get something more out of life or to reach a goal you really do need to focus a lot of energy into the process of change.  Alton did so with with his diet and I can see that I need to do the same when I think about cooking.  Chasing the next meal will never get me any satisfaction, but better planning and taking a little bit more time to focus on the actual cooking process I enjoy so much is a goal I need to work towards.  On that note I'll leave you with one more article quote from Alton Brown:

"In my business, it's really easy to get to the point where you hate food and hate all cooking.  Then I go cook eggs, and it's like wow, look at that little miracle. Look at everything that eggs do. To me that's a magic trick."


PJ Mullen said...

If I'm trying something new, it can be stressful, but when I get to start with a complete organized kitchen and am making something that I don't need any reference material for, it is very relaxing and stress free.

Stacy said...

Great article. I was thinking about this myself. I just found out about the death of a friend the other day. That night I tried a new recipe and it felt so good! I got completely lost in the preparation, it was so soothing and relaxing. I love standing in front of the stove stirring a gravy, waiting for it to bubble and thicken. I love using a good paring knife. I love chopping garlic as small as I can possibly get it. I love revving up my mixer for cookies. Most of all, I love the anticipation of sitting down to a meal I have never made before. Trying that first bite, hoping it is good. And it is? Oh my, a slim slice of heaven for me.