• Benjamin

Cooking with a Mental Health Cocktail

Cooking is an incredible experience, and cooking with a Mental Health Cocktail can be a blast!

What is the Mental Health Cocktail? Well for me, I like to think of myself as those fancy Cocktails with a long list of ingredients; and costs $10(Canadian of course) more than most of the other drinks. For me, it's hard to cook the same things multiple times in a week, and I often find myself looking at ingredients trying to work out if the effort is worth it for the final product. I've never had much of a time in cooking classes, even during high school for the credits; and looking at recipes can feel overwhelming the more complicated they become.


The flip side? Well I've grown a lot while learning to cook, not just for myself but my wife as well. It is so nice to have someone with a similar palate to yourself, and isn't afraid to challenge decisions in the kitchen.


Though the Mental Health Cocktail can definitely challenge me in the kitchen, I believe it adds another level of fun and difficulty to cooking. I can hone what I thought were deficits and turn them into assets. With experience, I've learned more and more about different flavour combinations, sauce combinations, all that good stuff. Each time I enter the kitchen, I take it as a challenge to see what I can create or improve next!! Now, growing up, I was truly the type of person that could burn a pot of boiling water. I did like NO cooking while I was still living at home, I just never fully had the drive for it. Moving in with my then girlfriend (now wife) I started trying it out more. It gave me that extra bit of independence, and I felt more in control of my diet. It's also always so exciting to try a new recipe for someone you love!


However, we can all be susceptible to bouts of depression, dips in the mood, and an overwhelming urge to just do nothing. Dealing with Bipolar, there would be weeks at a time I wouldn't leave the house, I wouldn't do chores, and I definitely didn't cook. It is okay to feel bad sometimes, hell having Bipolar and feeling like crap for periods at a time felt hand in hand. I won't say cooking is the saviour that pulled me out of this, no that goes to a consistent schedule, medication, therapy, and my loved ones. (A story for another time) Though, cooking is a fantastic form of Cognitive training, as doing things you enjoy and gets you moving is a step towards regulating emotions.


I get it, we're not always up for big complicated meals, and meal prep, and all that "fun" stuff. There are steps however that can help you in these times of low energy, high emotion. The first is meal prep. Yes this may seem obvious, but something a lot of us just don't do at home; I'm lucky that my wonderful wife preps all of our veggies on the weekends. What we do is buy a bunch of bell peppers, white onion, zucchinis, cucumbers and whatever else we're feeling, then Kyla will slice half the vegetables into strips, then dice the other half. This way you have a variety of shapes and cooking styles to implement. I'm telling you, the amount of days just having the veggies ready to go has helped me cook, it makes a huge difference! I also recommend keeping a lot of spices, that way you can constantly change how you want to cook a dish, and in which way you want the flavours to go. You don't have to break the bank either. Most bulk food stores (Atleast near us) have a huge selection of spices, for MUCH cheaper than grocery stores, and you can always choose to buy a small amount of different spices, just to try things out! Finally, keep it fun. Once again I'm going to mention Brad Leone (From the Youtube channel/Magazine Bon Appetit) because he's a big advocate for just going for it in the kitchen. Something he mentioned actually seems like a really good idea, keeping a cooking notebook in the kitchen to sketch in as you go. When I'm really into it, I enter 'the zone' and just have fun; afterwards, I have no gosh dang clue what I used and how I did it!!


Speaking of Youtube, just watch videos! There are so many great cooking videos that aren't just "overhead pot/pan add some ingredients thats the video." There are great videos out there that are hosted by interesting people, and even if you aren't planning to cook what they are, you'd be surprised how much you can learn about other techniques while watching!!


These are just some of the reasons that I love cooking. (and how I'm definitely NOT an expert in any regard!)


Anyway, have a fantastic day, and get cookin'!

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© Copyright 2019, Benjamin Imlau