The Joy of Cooking: Self-Care in the Kitchen

Posted on March 29th, 2014 by in Healthy Living

cooking_immersionThe truth is, I’ve only recently started to cook. In my twenties and thirties, I wore my lack of domesticity as a badge of pride, a sign that I was a busy, independent woman. During those years, I worked late and often picked up takeout on the way home.

That habit stayed with me for decades, even as I became more health conscious and replaced Chinese food and sandwiches with a trip to the Whole Foods salad bar. Like many people, I saw cooking as a time-intensive activity, another chore in my already busy life.

But, as I became more serious about yoga, it became clear that I would have to start cooking for myself to get healthier. Salad bars and health food stores could only get me so far. Cooking was now looking like an important piece of my overall self-care.

“I always think of cooking as empowering, and compare it to having a practice like yoga,” says Kripalu Executive Chef Jeremy Rock Smith. “These days, a lot of people come into class with limiting beliefs like ‘I don’t have time, I don’t have the skills, it takes too long.’”

Jeremy says that once people learn the basics of making a meal, they gain confidence. He encourages new cooks to get into the kitchen, even if it’s only once a week.

“For someone who has not been in the kitchen, [cooking] is a physical statement of self-care–it’s literally standing up for yourself and your own food,” says Kripalu Lead Nutritionist Annie B. Kay, who teaches Kripalu’s Nutrition and Cooking Immersion class with Jeremy. “We live in a world today where a large percentage of the food in the food supply–the USDA says 70 percent–is refined.”

Annie says that in order to take control of our health, we need to be involved in how our food is prepared.

“In our class, we all work at one long, communal table together,” Jeremy says. “Cooking, like eating, is one of the best ways to bond with others. Everyone enjoys it, and they get over their fears. It’s not a chore at the end of the day. It’s actually fun.”

Last year, I joined Jeremy and Annie for a week at that table. As I’ve learned to be more comfortable in the kitchen, my perspective has changed. I now see cooking as an important life skill and a key to good health.

But that doesn’t mean that I always ace what I cook. That first batch of vegan chocolate brownies didn’t exactly come out as planned—but I couldn’t be prouder that I made it myself.


About Jennifer Mattson

Jennifer is a journalist, writer, yogini, and kirtan junkie. A former volunteer resident at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, she’s a former broadcast news producer for CNN and National Public Radio. Her reporting and writing have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, USA Today and the Women’s Review of Books.

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