For me, food has always been about more than just eating. It is the cooking, the process – from start to finish – that I love. Even when it doesn’t go to plan, cooking raises my spirits. It still usually tastes good even if it’s not what I planned. Cooking is a saviour for me. Learning from mistakes and knowing what to do to improve it next time – it’s how I learn to be a better cook and is also a kind of therapy for me.
The kitchen has always been my happy place. My first memories of my nan are in the kitchen, me stood next to her watching her make pastry, Yorkshire puddings and my grandad’s favourite cakes. The kitchen is the place I always gravitate to, whether it’s at a family gathering, friends’ houses, parties or visiting restaurants – I’ll always ask for a little look or try to linger there. It’s the only place I feel completely at ease.
I cook and bake when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, anxious or fidgety – which I now know is sometimes down to my ADHD – when that dark cloud surrounds me like a thick, heavy burden and I have no idea why. It’s my place. Cooking has got me through some proper shit times, and it continues to do so.
My mental health is something I hadn’t spoken about until fairly recently, but it is something I’ve been battling with for quite a few years. I have had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, I’ve cancelled plans, not spoken to family and friends and felt completely useless. But I have also accomplished things I never thought possible – and this is because I found something I love doing. Cooking at home puts me in my comfort zone and cooking outside my kitchen pushes me out of my comfort zone too, which is a good thing.
Our lives are busy, sometimes chaotic and often unexpected things happen. Things change, don’t go to plan, derail us, upset us, shock us and that’s okay. What we need to do, sometimes, is just slow down, take time and take stock of the things that we enjoy and that make us happy – or at least smile for a while. We can often forget to look out for number one and get easily overwhelmed. We need to ensure we take time for ourselves. Cooking gives me confidence when I feel my least confident. It reminds me I can do something good, that I can make people smile and bring joy to others through something I’ve done myself.