Most nights, our dinners are simple: roasted vegetables, salad, whatever leftovers we have from yesterday’s lunch or another day’s project in the fridge. Sometimes it’s previously prepared food we’ve stuffed in the freezer. Other times it’s ice cream. We tend to go for easy and simple and mindless, despite what the stereotype of keeping a food blog might be. But every so often, one of us gets freshly inspired, like I did last week with this fish recipe, and making dinner becomes less about efficiency and more about fun. These are the times when I love the kitchen, when it feels like a way to creatively vent out all the tension of those crazy mental Ferris wheels and tangibly let my hands show my brain, again, that some forms of disorder resolve, making beauty in the end.
Thinking about this just now, I Googled “why creative outlet,” because that’s what I’m describing here, I guess, what it means to have a creative outlet, be it cooking or writing or pottery, and I fell deep into a rabbit trail of articles about how practicing creativity in any of its forms can be valuable for people fighting everything from depression to anxiety to boredom to stress. Making things you enjoy is something that can “help people perform better at work,” says a recent study featured at NPR. Gardening helped one woman featured in a Writer’s Digest Magazine article improve the way she wrote. Lorraine Thompson at Copywriters’ Kitchen cites regular cooking as a weapon against stress and as a way to help your mind to slow down. “Food preparation is a process,” she says. “It takes time. It requires participation … By handling food every day, you’re given the opportunity to be mindful.”
They’re all sort of saying the same thing I’m saying, the same thing I said to Tim last week on a day that I started behind on work hours and finished strolling fields and hills and horse stables at a previously undiscovered park near our house. “You never know what a day will bring!” I told him breathlessly, right after I snapped a photo of a horse named Boo. It could be working on a car or studying astronomy or tilling the earth that shows it to you, but these gifts of work, especially creative work, can be the very tools to give us hope.