Cooking As An Antidepressant

On family vacation in Orlando we were hanging out at the hotel pool. It was a crazy sunny day so we decided the best course of action was to sit by the pool and bake in the sun. The kids took this opportunity to go up and down the pool slide endlessly. After about two hours by the pool, something happened to one of my nephews. He wouldn’t talk about it, but he was visibly upset. He looked like he wanted to cry. From what we could piece together, one of the pool attendants told him something. We weren’t sure what was said, but it made him sad.

I let him have a few moments alone with his dad to talk it out and make sure everything was okay. After they talked it out he seemed fine, but he wasn’t the happy kid running up and down the slide anymore. Now he was a gloomy kid who’s world had been shattered. We left the pool to get some fries for his brother but I could tell he was over being outside. He wanted to go back the hotel room. Sitting by the pool wasn’t the fun vacation it was twenty minutes ago. So, I offered to walk him back to the room.

I was new to the hotel but he had been there for a few days, so I let him lead the way. He was a bit hesitant at first but I think part of him really wanted to get back to the room and since I was playing useless, he had to figure it out. The way I saw it, as a kid it is always the last event in your life that carries the most weight. The more wins you can fill between the losses, the better. For the next fifteen minutes he would be the captain of our two person army trying to find our way home. He seconded guessed himself a little bit and it took a bit longer than if he knew where he was going, but he figured it out. He walked off that elevator with his chest puffed out a little bit more knowing that he found his way home. He did a good job.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the door of the hotel his chest had deflated again. He didn’t say anything particularly sad but I could tell that since he accomplished his task, now he could start thinking about the last crappy thing that happened to him. With slumped shoulders he made his way over to the Beyblade station in the living room to turn on his iPad and spend a few hours.

As a guy who has spent countless hours occupying my mind with monotony just in an attempt to not overthink bad events in my life, I found this completely unacceptable. I needed to do something, to occupy his mind again. To be honest, I was probably projecting some of my own stuff on him, seeing as how kids are incredibly resilient. Either way I didn’t want this to be a bad day. Even if it was just for me, it needed to be something other than that. Sure he loved watching Beyblade videos on Youtube and if that’s what he really wanted to do that was fine, but I knew he was hungry and I thought this might be one of the times to impart one of my best coping mechanisms; cooking.

I didn’t want to force a lesson on him but I thought, maybe this could happen organically. After all, that time in the sun there was no way he wasn’t at least peckish, therefore I asked him what he wanted to eat, and he sheepishly replied, ‘pasta…’.

I replied, ‘That’s not a problem.’ Since, his dad and I discussed making pasta for lunch anyhow. Then I made the ask, ‘Do you want to help?’ and he shyly accepted. We decided to make a tomato penne pasta. Frankly all we did was boil the penne and heat up the store bought tomato sauce but sometimes if you try hard enough you can make even the most mundane tasks exciting. Especially, if you are a kid and it is all new to you.

He slowly but surely got excited about all the little bits of knowledge I was giving him and jumped at any chance to help out. Opening the box, picking the cheese, salting the water, all fun new things to do. Plus he got to taste every step of the way, which we all know is the best part of the job. 

By the time we were ready to put the cooked pasta in the heated sauce he was all smiles. I really stressed that he made it. That it was his creation. Probably a little bit too much, but I was proud of the kid, he wasn’t sulking anymore and he took a pretty uneventful tomato sauce and made it well seasoned and cheesy. I’d call that a win by all accounts. Every time he tasted the sauce and it changed by adding a few ingredients, his face lit up. He was in absolute shock over the difference some all purpose seasoning could have on a sauce. He was even in a good enough mood to help me to clean up and dry a few dishes. In the end though he was back to watching Youtube while he ate. Which wasn’t so bad because at least now he was dancing while he did it.

I know cooking isn’t an antidepressant pill and the kid was probably fine without it, but the truth is cooking has gotten me out of some pretty dark moods. Anyone who has ever dealt with depression knows that anything that helps even a little bit is a god send. The thing is I don’t always think about it that way. In hindsight, looking at what heating up a little bit of pasta did was incredible. Do you guys have any stories where a cooking saved you from a bad mood? Let us know in the comments down below.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Troy Fitzgerald says:

    Im not sure cooking alone does it for me, but when cooking brings people together, it’s probably the best anti-depressant. Your nephew will remember his time with you more than the food.


    1. HowWeEat says:

      Bringing people together is one of the best things about food.


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