Rosa’s Musings: How Lemon Curd Saved My Life, or Cooking as Therapy
Cooking is not just a “recreation”: It is therapeutic, and can save your life
Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing — love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist — not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.–Quote by Keith Floyd, “A Feast of Floyd”
For those who smirk when they hear the word “cooking” or see it as a mindless pastime for housewives, naive dreamers or people with too much time on their hands, I have to say that they have been foolishly misguided into thinking such nonsense!
As a matter of fact, apart from being a very pleasant distraction, it has been scientifically proved that cooking has healing properties and a positive impact on individuals whether they are ill or in good condition. This alternative form of “cure” is often used in therapeutic cooking groups, coaching courses, and corporate management, as well as by medical staff to help patients who are psychologically fragile or physically injured.
Cooking is a highly demanding task that combines a wide array of skills. You have to do a lot of thinking, anticipating and planning in advance, then once that is done you have to purchase the ingredients and material which you’ll be using. Then you have to prepare yourself as well as your environment for the task that lies ahead and finally transpose the methods into reality — a job which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Cooking is a healthy “recreation” that requires physical, cognitive, social and intrapersonal skills. One needs a good range of movements in the upper body (shoulders, neck, fingers, elbows and wrists), perfect overall balance, sensory awareness (dealing with dangerous objects and situations) as well as sufficient muscle strength in the superior limbs (for mixing, lifting, chopping, pounding, whisking and cutting).
This activity improves and teaches sequencing (planning, organizing and understanding in which way and order things have to be carried out), memory (remembering the different steps, methods and how to accomplish them), concentration (being totally involved and focused on the recipes and outcome, especially when they are complicated), attention (when several chores are being executed simultaneously), time management (completion of an assignment within a limited time lapse) and ability for adaptability (being able to alter the recipe and techniques or improvise).
The therapeutic values of cooking are wide-ranging:
- builds our self-respect and self-confidence, thus giving us a sense of accomplishment
- develops our relationship/social deftness (working together, communication, sense of camaraderie, caring about others, defining and attaining team goals)
- expands our social networks (sharing and taking part in food-related events such cooking classes, potlucks, bake sales, blogging, etc.)
- decreases our anxiety, fear, stress, frustration, anger, thus making us feel better as it helps release physical and psychological tension (instead of punching somebody in the face or whacking
- your kids you can now pound the hell out of your meat or mistreat your bread dough and beat your cream angrily)
- motivates and gives us perspective (ambitions and the will to not let go)
- facilitates self-awareness as we have to concentrate on ourselves (it is a highly meditative and contemplative exercise, a bit like yoga, which helps us clean the head and feel harmony)
- “empties” our mind as we focus only on the moment and on what we are doing
- nourishes our creative spirit
- teaches us to cope with stress
- and comforts us as flavors we love bring back happy memories of cherished moments in life
How cooking saved my life
Like many food-oriented people, I have experienced the soothing powers of food preparation. Seven years ago, I went through a very difficult period, and if cooking had not been one of my hobbies, I would not be where I am now. Through that medium I have been able to think about other things than my problems, escape depression, avoid self-pitying and withdrawal, open up to the world, work on myself and become a better as well as a stronger human being.
Thanks to this passion I have opened a blog, discovered hidden talents; my self-esteem has grown and my shyness has nearly totally disappeared. It helped me go through hard times, find a reason to continue loving life and gave me the will to be combative. The frightened and psychologically-bruised girl that I was in the past has healed and blossomed considerably.
Making lemon curd is something I’ve always liked doing as the whole process relaxes me and it is one of the treats that has a lift-me-up effect on me and which I consider very comforting. This exquisite spread reminds me of my English grandparents and the Sunday morning breakfasts I used to have when I was a kid, and makes me feel closer to England. I have loads of positive memories and associations with it, so when I’m feeling down, it is therapeutic to whip up some lemon curd.
I am so happy to be in possession of my grandmother’s 1971 recipe for this lusciously buttery, exquisitely tangy, divinely citrusy and blissfully smooth spread I ate throughout my childhood. Without it, I would not know what it is to reach gourmet Nirvana! Now it’s your turn to discover what bliss is…
Recipe: Lemon Curd
Recipe by Rosa Mayland 2011, all rights reserved (R)
Makes 2 pots of jam.
180 g unsalted butter
180 g granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
The rind of 3 organic lemons
170 ml lemon juice (from 3-4 organic lemons)
1. Put the butter and the sugar in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie). Stir continuously until the butter has melted.
2. Zest and then squeeze the lemons.
3. Add both to the butter and sugar mixture in the bowl. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
4. Beat the eggs together and add to the contents of the bowl. Mix well.
5. Cook slowly (while continuously stirring to prevent lumps or curdling) until the mixture thickens.
6. Pour into clean jam pots and close them immediately.
- The thickening phase takes around 10 to 15 minutes.
- If the mixture doesn’t thicken, increase the temperature a little.
- Lemon curd continues to thicken once it has been poured into the pots.
- It has to be eaten fairly rapidly and can be kept for up to 10 days (maximum) in the refrigerator.
- This British speciality is excellent on fresh homemade bread, biscuits or scones.