Cooking and Creativity

Boosting mood and mental health in the kitchen

Comfort food. What images do those two words conjure up in your mind? Your favorite childhood lunch? Holiday specialties? Your most beloved restaurant? Whatever the phrase means to you, it’s safe to say that comfort food does just that – provide comfort. While each culture has its own variation of it – cheesy grits, tamales, dumplings, samosas, pad thai, lasagna, roast dinner – the feeling of nostalgia brought upon by having said fare is the same no matter where you hail from.

Having spent most of the last year in confinement, many have begun experimenting a lot more in the kitchen. And while home cooking will never grant the same experience as dining out does, learning to make or indulging in our preferred comfort foods has been more nourishing than one could have ever imagined. While some people might argue that healthy living requires low calorie dishes all day every day, others would affirm that everything in moderation is much healthier. This is especially true when it comes to mental health. For those living outside their home country, managing to recreate a favorite meal can bring an indescribable sense of home, elevating one’s mood instantly.

There’s something about engaging so many senses in recreating sentimental dishes that affords a sense of relief that is unlike anything else.

“The scent of spices and herbs, the feel of dough in your hands, the sight of a plate that invokes countless memories, the sound of something sizzling, the taste of home.”

Whether you are learning to make a dish for the first time or remaking a recipe that you were taught as a child, immersing oneself in the ritual of preparing a meal is truly therapeutic. For those recreating what they learned to make as children, the feeling of safety provided by knowing exactly what you are doing is guaranteed to improve your mood. If instead one is learning to make something for the first time, the sense of accomplishment when it finally comes out just right is incomparable!

The kitchen is a place where magic happens. Either by yourself, with a friend, partner or family member, cooking can bring about a sense of control. In a world where life as we knew it has been totally flipped upside down, knowing just what ingredients to buy, how to prepare them, and that you will soon be satisfying a particular craving produces a feeling of security. If instead one is embarking on learning to recreate a cherished supper or dessert, making the experience a fun goal can provide a sense of excitement never before experienced while grocery shopping. This activity can become weeks long if you live in a foreign country where certain ingredients are scarce, with each week getting you closer to your delicious end result. 


Wherever you are in the world, think about your most beloved meal. Close your eyes and try to recall its scent, colors and tastes. Now imagine having that memory for brunch this weekend (or next month if it’s complicated!). Sit with these feelings and start planning your shopping list. Make it a family affair or choose to do a kitchen takeover. Whatever you decide, the feeling of wistfulness as you inhale its fragrance and take that first bite will surely have you feeling chipper for days to come.