My Experiments With Happiness: #1 Cooking on Bad Days

I cook on bad days; and it really helps. Psychologists too agree that cooking is a form of therapy and great for us

Mind It
4 min read
I cook on bad days; and it really helps

07:00 AM

I wake up thinking it's going to be a great day. Without any glitches, productive, and full of happy vibes.

10:00 AM

I am angry. Three autos cancelled on me, and this autowallah is taking hours to come.

12: 00 PM

The case study I had lined up for a shoot cancelled last minute. She didn't even tell me, she told my collegaue who is now relaying the message to me! My other stories too aren't lining up. I am getting restless, worked up, tense.

05:00 PM

My mother calls. She has started feeling pain in the knee. It's tough, she says. Being on the phone, miles away, I can't do anything. I feel helpless, slightly bad as a daughter.

05:30 PM

Okay great, this couple who is always PDAing is now getting married? This one's gone to Columbia University? This one's writing a column? Using Facebook to distract myself has clearly not worked. It's made me feel worse.

06: 00 PM

My cook calls. "Didi, aaj kya banana hai? (what should I cook today)" Nothing, I reply. "Kuchhhhh nahin?" she double checks.

On a whim, I tell her, "Yes, really, don't cook anything. Today, I will cook myself."

07:00 PM

I reach home. Open the fridge. Ah, there lies my beloved Pomfret. I had to brave some pretty gory sights at the local fish-cum-meat market to get it.


The Cooking

How do I cook you, my dahling, I ask her? She says, please don't let my life go to waste. Just watch Youtube and pick a recipe that has a 70% success rate.

Pomfret's fish is my command. After some quick browsing - BTW, have I told you that watching food videos is extremely calming for me. There's something about people letting you into their kitchens, sharing their recipes, seeing them whip magic from the same masala daanis, wok, and spices you possess, that makes it really intimate, and grounding for me. Because no matter how good or terrible we are feeling, none of us can ever say no to a well-cooked meal.

Ah, I already feel better. But before I take on the laborious task of cooking my beloved Pomfret, I must make myself a cup of tea.

Yes, my chai looks a lot like the picture above.
Yes, my chai looks a lot like the picture above.
(Photo: iStock)

Everyone has their own centering ritual. For me, it's enjoying chai, just the way I like it (with cardamom, ginger, extra tea and less milk), made by me, and had in my favourite tea cup.

My tea ritual is something that belongs to me. And for me, the most beautiful thing about my tea ritual is that it's impartial to both, my sad days and happy days; my successful days and unsuccessful days.

But cooking something new, something I've never tried before, gives me a sense of adventure (Yes, I know, in the comfort of my home!).

It also distracts me from what's bothered or hurt me during the day, and makes me focus only on the recipe at hand. When I am cooking, my whole motive becomes to make the dish as delicious as I can. Work/relationship/family problems be damned!

Aah, now coming back to the Pomfret I'd ignored in the daze of my tea and thoughts.

The Recipe

But first, let me do the Insta!
But first, let me do the Insta!

I clean it up under running water. Set aside the spices on another plate. Marinade it and then set it aside. Getting my hands dirty with the marinade is a fun detox.I am already smiling, even though the cooking is not even halfway done! Meanwhile, I call my mother, sister and brother and take updates from all. When cooking is not too intensive, it becomes a light activity, that you can keep doing even as you hum along doing other things.

Kashmiri style mutton
Kashmiri style mutton
Divyani Rattanpal

Over the past year, I have experimented with many dishes just like this; I have cooked thai red curry, Bengali style fish curry, Kashmiri yakhni, rogan josh, chowmein, and whatnot.

Some have turned out good, some not so good.

Some meals have been cooked for loved ones, some for me alone.

Some meals have turned into average dishes, but great stories.

But all meals have given me one thing: happiness and contentment. Somewhere, as we keep chasing the big happiness, and that big success, we forget the small happiness and small successes. And each of my cooking expeditions is just to try and catch that.

I am a home cook. I love home cooking. I respect and admire great chefs but I don’t think that is the story of the food in our lives. For me, food is a repository of memories.
Nigella Lawson, Celebrity Home Chef

An article in Psychology Today says, "the very process of cooking can nourish your psychological well-being."

In fact, it even quotes a marriage and family therapist who encourages her clients to practice mindfulness in the kitchen.

When you’re focusing on the moment this way, you’re not ruminating over past slights or worrying about future problems. Mindfulness also helps reduce stress and promotes greater gusto for life.
Psychology Today Article.

Further it says, that by going off the book and trying our own variations to the recipe, we can even feel a shot to our self esteem.

"The sense of accomplishment you feel afterward can be a boost for your self-esteem."

It’s the ordinariness of cooking. You really have to do it whether you are inspired or not. The inspiration comes from cooking. One mustn’t romanticise cooking so much.
Nigella Lawson

Well, I 100% agree with what Nigella says here, because for me, the romance and zest for life is coming from my experiments with food.

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