Cooking, odd saviour that calmed Covid-19 anxiety

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Chef Ali Mandhry is among people who spearheaded #CookWithMe campaign. He walked netizens through a Mutton/Paneer Biriani recipe. Photo/PD/Grace Wachira

Whipping up a yummy meal is not only good for your stomach- it encourages creativity, a means to relieve stress and a good pastime, especially during this pandemic, if Google trends are anything to go by.

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace 

“Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively, socially and intrapersonally.

Physically, cooking requires good movement in shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as good overall balance.

Adequate muscle strength is needed in upper limbs for lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping.

Furthermore, sensory awareness is important in considering safety while dealing with hot and sharp objects,” notes a research by the University of Alberta.

Psychologist Ken Munyua says that cooking is not just a pastime, but the preparation, instructions and serving of food is helpful.

“It’s more than just satisfying your appetite with something yummy; cooking can literally feel like a meditation session, even if you are not usually one to experiment in the kitchen. 

When in the activities of meal preparations, the mind become wholly engaged and concentration is at its peak.

You will find people expressing themselves in the flavours and think beyond just the recipe while cooking,” he notes.

Cooking as therapy is effective because it encourages creativity. It also makes people feel good about themselves because it’s a way for them to nurture others. For most dishes, there is also a sense of immediate gratification. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that therapists are now using cooking courses as an actual strategy to treat depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders in their patients.  

That explains why Kenyans took to their kitchens when Covid-19 hit. Google Africa’s head of communication and public relations, Dorothy Ooko observed that Google trends showed that more Kenyans watched cooking videos when Covid-19 sent everyone into lockdown in the month of March.

Worldwide, the average daily views of Youtube videos with ‘Cook With Me’ in the title, doubled the first two weeks of March compared to the same time last year.

Similarly, videos with ‘Meal prep’ in the title also increased by over 55 per cent for the same period. 

Sharing expertise

Viewers have been trying out different culinary skills at home with essential ingredients from their cabinets.

YouTubers who have cooking channels have ensured the recipes are simple, so that anyone can prepare these meals.

Cook #WithMe playlists enable creators to share their culinary expertise with their followers who have picked up cooking tips.

The global movement #WithMe has allowed food content creators to gain traction on their platforms and showcase the local delicacies globally,” she says.

 According to Munyua, we are relational beings and thrive on interaction. 

“As such, when you engage in a recipe others are engaged in, you cope well with difficult situation such as the stay at home directive.

Even more, the gratification that comes after a job well done and lessons learnt after the whole process goes a long way in therapy, especially if you love what you are doing or are getting into it for the first time,” Munyua says.

YouTube, through the #WithMe campaign, provided the platform for viewers and content creators to engage and connect. 

Though #WithMe playlist has been there for almost a decade, daily views of videos with “#WithMe” in the title have increased by 600 per cent since stay-at-home orders came up in the last week of March this year.

YouTube viewers have found helpful ways of using the platform through Do It Yourself (DIY) videos, cooking videos, fitness videos, uplifting and mood-lifting content, funny videos, and many more.

Online session

Celebrity Chef Ali Mandhry is one of those who spearheaded #CookWithMe #CookWithChefAli campaign.

He walked netizens through a Mutton/Paneer Biriani recipe and since Covid-19 protocols hindered a physical Cook With Me session, Google Kenya sent a few selected journalists some packaged ingredients to participate. 

“We received the well-packed ingredients; cubed mutton, vegetable oil, onions, potatoes, spices and everything else required in the right amounts and all we had to do was follow through with the recipe.

It took 90 minutes to cook after 30 minutes of prep.  The cooking made me forget life’s pressures not to mention, passing time constructively,” one journalist says. 

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