Cutting vegetables into very small pieces can be a source of zen; and watching a cake rise in the oven is a moment of intense relaxation when you are a mother supporting an XXL mental load. Even three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire often trumpets that cooking has been therapy for him. So there must be some truth to it.
Cultivate your inner well-being
“Cooking is my daily therapy, it’s more effective for me than a yoga session. Kneading a shortcrust pastry soothes my tensions, I release them by kneading the ingredients firmly and at the same time I feel a tenfold increase in self-esteem when I make a good quiche”. confides Colette, a thirty-year-old for whom eating is one of the recipes for well-being. The same for François, 70, sculptor: “I have a job with a long gestation period, you never really know where you are going, you have to wait a while to get results and feedback on your artistic creation. In the kitchen, which represents a real valve, after only forty minutes of cooking, we know whether you like it or not, whether it is good or whether it is missed. It does me a lot of good, it keeps me going until my next exhibition. » Of course, anyone who cooks has noticed the beneficial psychological effect of simmering for themselves and others. It is not for nothing that cooking therapy develops so quickly.
Moreover, one of the forerunners in France, Emmanuelle Turquet, today a practitioner of kitchen therapy, trained in helping relationships, art therapy, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and analysis transactional to be well equipped, has been a hit with his workshops since 2015 : “I am a companion, I create a soothing environment and I offer culinary improvisation based on a feeling. The power of cooking therapy is linked to the fact that each person is asked to cook without a recipe, that is what is important. A way to bypass the mind. We drop the defense and the responsibility for results, we arrive more relaxed than at the shrink, without any idea what might happen. We allow ourselves to be surprised by this free creation, then together with a practitioner we try to finally decipher its unconscious message. This is the principle of art therapy. It is very useful because instead of sitting on a sofa and only using the head and the verbal, we go through the body with the five senses present, through the emotional with feelings that can go up and also verbally. That’s what makes the magic. »
A recipe with several ingredients
She also does not hesitate to mention the example of her patient Estelle*, who suffers from anorexia nervosa, to show that what happens in a workshop presupposes what can be done in real life. After Emmanuelle Turquet asks her to connect to a feeling in the moment, the young woman grabs a blackboard that she says represents her traumatic past. She places sugar in the shape of a clover because she wants luck in her life, orange segments which represent the cakes she wants to eat and grated coconut which represent the bars of the prison where his pathology confines him. The kitchen therapist then invites her to blow on it if she feels it. Estelle decides to follow this suggestion and of course the bars fly away. “It’s very moving, says Emmanuelle Turquet. Estelle is of course followed by a dietician and a psychotherapist. If you have experienced trauma, cooking therapy alone is not enough. You need to go to a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst. My practice is an accelerator. I accompany patients differently who may be tired of speaking. There are also those who do an analysis after following a workshop where they have produced a psychic subject to work with. »
Culinotherapy helps people with Alzheimer’s revive memories, create links, regain autonomy…
A culinary meditation
The plate becomes this transitional object through which speech can be released and psychic pots lighten up. But that’s not enough, because as you know, it is also a language of love and giving. Altruism, cultivated daily in the kitchen, improves well-being and health, reduces stress, makes people happy. Paying attention to others is as much fun as inhaling the delicious smell of warm croissants. Above all, it can be said that preparing a meal is the mindfulness meditation of food lovers. Meditating or making a rice pudding gives the same benefits as those of being in the moment – otherwise it will burn in the pot, but also in your inner pot if you never stop. We slow down, we listen to what is happening inside and around us – the crackle of brown butter melting in the frying pan, the milk bubbling, the noise of the blender, the negative thoughts subside, the stress disappears a little… Suddenly will our local environment become the only priority. You must be at his stove and nothing else. “I can be very ethereal, so cooking brings me back to the here and now, the present, says Annabel Orphelin, author of the cookbook food therapy (ed. Annabel Orphelin). It is a very precious moment of meditation, especially in a world where we are always projecting ourselves. The kitchen still takes on its full significance. My most therapeutic dish is my finances because I know it’s a real gift to my family who love it. I noticed that when you feel good around a table, when you travel tastefully, for example with a good Asian salad, or visually, the impact of colors on the brain, different textures, crisp, soft, subconsciously opens a whole universe of sensations which causes the body to relax. »
Ice cream to stimulate intelligence
Of course, we also talk a lot about culinotherapy, a term used specifically to define this practice of care at work in nursing homes to help people with, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, which is quick to revive memories, create links, regain motor skills, autonomy, work with cognitive functions. Cooking as a tool to help heal is also of interest to neurogastronomy, which combines cooking and neuroscience. Scientists are very interested in it, such as Roland Salesse, an agricultural engineer who publishes the cooking brain (Quae). It confirms what we knew intuitively: when we eat sweet food, we secrete endorphins, which will activate the motivational system and lead to a pleasant image, with the desire to reproduce this state. We will therefore tend to want to go for this cuddly food to soothe stress! More surprisingly, we find that eating ice cream for breakfast would increase brain capacity tenfold, according to a study conducted by Yoshihiko Koga, a Japanese specialist in psychophysiology at Kyorin University in Tokyo. This result may seem cold, but it seems that this morning consumption boosts energy and positive emotions. Here’s a cure that pleases us (a little less the nutritionists!). If, in addition to helping psychologically, eating ice cream is also good for our neurons, you can’t wait for summer to enjoy a guilt-free Bronte Pistachio and Piedmont Hazelnut cone from 8! “You’re getting fat! – No, I need to develop my intelligence!”
* The first name has been changed.