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The Joy of Cooking

by Beth on June 14th, 2021
Mise en place

For most of my adult life, I considered cooking a chore. I didn’t find much joy in meal planning, grocery shopping, or preparing dinner at the end of a long day. I focused on finding as many quick, easy, kid-friendly recipes as I could. Over the past few years, I’ve come to view cooking in a very different light. It’s a mindful practice that gives me a sense of meaning and lets me use one of my top strengths.

All three of these are strategies that have been shown to boost well-being:

  • Strengths – One of my top strengths is learner. When I stopped eating meat, I needed to learn how to cook more plant-based meals. I started reading books and following vegetarian cooks on Instagram and I took a plant-based cooking class online. Learning about the health benefits of different foods and how to prepare new recipes made cooking much more enjoyable because I was using one of my strengths. All sorts of different strengths, like curiosity, achiever, adaptability, or focus, can be applied to make cooking more fun.
  • Meaning – As I learned more about the impact that food has on my mental and physical health, the health of my family, and the health of our planet, I began to see the value of carefully choosing what foods to buy and cooking healthy meals. I now derive a real sense of meaning from both shopping and cooking. Buying more organic food is good for the environment. If I buy fewer processed foods and sugary snacks, my family will be healthier. Using spices and sauces to make flavorful plant-based recipes can encourage them to embrace more nutritious meals. I now view cooking as an important way to keep myself and my family healthy.
  • Mindfulness – One of the first things you learn in most cooking classes is the concept of “mise en place”. This is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place”. Chefs are taught to have everything they will need to make a meal setup before starting to cook. All the ingredients should be washed, chopped, and measured ahead of time. This allows the cooking process to be a mindful, relaxing experience. You can calmly focus on each aspect, noticing the flow of water as you wash produce, the array of colors in the assembled ingredients, the smell of fresh herbs as you chop, and the aroma of onions as they brown.

These positive strategies can be used to make any chore more enjoyable. If there is something you must do around the house or at work that you really don’t like, try to intentionally apply one of your strengths while doing it. Look for the value for yourself or for others in what you’re doing. Focusing on the why can make it more meaningful. And, finally, give it your full attention. The experience of being present can make any task more pleasant.

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