The phenomenal benefits of cooking

November 30, 2019


Photo / Victoria Gasca

With the practice of cooking from scratch come numerous positive effects, but many are hesitant to start. Despite its perceived complexity, preparing a meal can be as easy or as difficult as the chef prefers.

On Thursday, millions of Americans stepped into the kitchen. Grocery shopping complete, they brought their purchases home and put on a determined face. An apparently endless collection of bowls and utensils, pots and pans, cans and jars, and a plethora of other items found a temporary new home on the counter. Guided by generations-old family recipes or entirely new digital ones, everyday chefs transformed piles of ingredients into hearty meals for a tableful – or more – of people. Rich and savory aromas blended with sweet and enticing scents, making the house feel like a home.

Of all of the Thanksgiving traditions, one of the most common is cooking. And for good reason: it is a unifying force, a way of bridging between cultures and values and time. Cooking is more than the act of preparing food. It’s an art, it’s a science, and it’s an opportunity to utterly transform your life.

Life-changing, you ask? What’s so revolutionary about tossing together a meal?

Now, I was empowered to select recipes from a treasure trove of online resources, write grocery lists, and figure out how to execute the instructions while adding my own personal flair.”

For starters, it offers an unparalleled degree of independence. This year, I began cooking for myself on a weekly basis. It began over two months ago with my decision to become a vegetarian. My dad, not much of an experimenter, had no qualms about my new dietary choice but reminded me that it meant preparing my own meals, since he was not too keen on delving into the world of meat-free cooking. Although I had only made a single dish by myself up to that point, I knew that this was a challenge I was willing to take on. What I didn’t expect was how liberating it was to make my own food. Now, I was empowered to select recipes from a treasure trove of online resources, write grocery lists, and figure out how to execute the instructions while adding my own personal flair. It’s strange to think that before, my dad used to ask me which of a small selection of his meals I wanted for that week. Since those days ended, I have not made the same meal twice – I can’t help it; I’m just too excited to try something new!

Knowing how to cook will be especially helpful when it comes time to move out of the house. Besides introducing new options, preparing your own food makes financial and nutritional sense. According to Forbes, ordering delivery from a restaurant can be as much as five times more expensive than eating home-cooked food. While this option is fine once in a while, these added costs amount to significant cash over time. Moreover, the National Institute of Health reports that those who regularly cook their meals tend to have better diets (consuming less calories, fat, and sugar) than those who do not. And who doesn’t want to eat healthier for less money?

Photo / Victoria Gasca
The first vegetarian dish I made, papas con “soyrizo,” was a Mexican classic made with a meat alternative. As a society, reducing our meat intake is a crucial step to ensuring the sustainability of our planet. It all starts with what’s on our plates.

Yet with this newfound economic power comes the obligation of supporting certain companies and, by extension, their practices. I gave up meat partially out of concern for animal welfare, but it was mostly an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. The United Nations warns that, unless animal agriculture experiences a sharp decline, the world will not be able to prevent the climate from increasing by 2°C. In that case, a catastrophic chain of natural disasters, economic struggles, and agricultural issues will ensue. Assisting in avoiding that outcome, to me, is the morally right thing to do. I’m not saying that everyone has to abstain from eating meat ever again, but trying one or more meatless days a week certainly helps. After all, it is the small actions of many and not the large actions of few that have the most profound impact.

And if all of this talk of managing your money and taking care of your health and stopping climate change has stressed you out, never fear. An article published in the New York Daily News outlines that cooking can be therapeutic. With a mix of the sensory stimulation and creativity, making food is soothing. And let’s face it: the end result is highly rewarding. How many other activities conclude with a product that not only satisfies a basic need but provides enjoyment that can even be shared with others?

The best part of cooking is that it is highly accessible. All it takes is a recipe, a grocery run, and some time. Simply set aside Sunday afternoon – or any regularly free period of time, for that matter – to make a meal. With just a little bit of effort, you can build a lifelong skill and learn how to make some of your favorite foods, all while accumulating tremendous rewards and responsibilities along the way.

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