It always pains us when we hear someone say that they don’t like to cook. Cooking is such an essential part of life, and it has the power to enhance our lives in so many different ways. In fact, cooking is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to combat some of the most common problems of our modern age.
One of these problems is digital fatigue, a state of mental exhaustion and detachment caused by overuse of our digital devices. If you feel like you’ve been experiencing life through a screen, or those nonstop notifications keep you constantly tethered to your devices, preventing you from experiencing the world in real life, you’re not alone. In our increasingly online world, digital fatigue is a widespread problem that can lead to feelings of disengagement from reality, detachment from our bodies and alienation from the natural, physical world. We live in a time where many people spend the bulk of their lives sitting still, engaged in intellectual work. Even our social lives can be experienced online, and we don’t even have to leave our homes to do our shopping. This modern tendency to live out our lives online leads to a lack of physical activity and pleasure.
It can even lead to relationship breakdown and disconnection from those we love. Everyone has seen those stock photos of couples turned away from each other in bed, their faces illuminated by the glow of their smartphones; or people seated around a dinner table, ignoring each other while they scroll away on their devices.
However, thankfully people are starting to push back, and a movement to unplug has begun. Things like digital detoxes and device-free vacations are becoming increasingly popular. Another odd yet fascinating trend that has surfaced recently is ASMR, and its rapid rise in popularity is just another symptom of our modern disconnection with physical reality.
In ASMR videos, people create various sounds such as crinkly noises made by crumpling paper, whispering, or fingernails being run across an object such as a comb. People are drawn to these videos because they say it causes them to feel a pleasurable tingly sensation which can help ease anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep. Humans are physical beings, and we have a deep need to experience life on a physical level. So in this age of disconnection, it’s no surprise to me that so many people are seeking out these videos in order to experience a bit of physical pleasure. But could there be a simpler solution?
It’s no coincidence that in this modern digital era, cooking is swiftly becoming a lost art, and this is nothing short of a tragedy. Cooking, and eating, are one of life’s great pleasures. In fact if you let it, the entire experience of creating a meal can be a wonderful sensual adventure! From browsing through a favorite recipe book, admiring the glossy photos; to searching out ingredients in a bustling market, taking in the aromas, sights and sounds of foods from all over the world; to washing and preparing those ingredients with our hands; to transforming them in a pan and then sitting down to finally eat… cooking is a rich experience that engages all of our senses.
Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t watch ASMR videos if it brings them pleasure or helps ease their anxiety. But I wonder if, instead of listening to recordings of people whispering or crinkling paper, the sound of mustard seeds sizzling and popping in a pan, or the crisp chop of a chef knife as it slices through a fresh carrot could provide a similar pleasure, but with added benefits.
One of the greatest benefits of cooking is its power to bring us together. Preparing a favorite dish for a loved one is a beautiful way to demonstrate love and care for that person. Taking a cooking class with your partner or even just spending time together in the kitchen provides a great opportunity to talk and connect. And meeting up with friends to create a shared meal can be a fun way to share cooking skills and try something different. Feeling like you’re not as close with a relative as you’d like? Try asking them to show you how they make their signature dish. Most people are more than happy to share their knowledge, especially if it means helping to keep a family tradition alive.
We can also explore different cultures through cooking. If you’re craving a cultural experience but can’t get away on vacation, try learning a different type of cuisine – it’s often easier than you think. Visit an international market, and ask the people that work there how to best prepare a certain ingredient. They’ll be delighted that you’re taking an interest in their culture, and along with expanding your mind and your palette, you may just meet a new friend.
Or perhaps what you feel you’re missing the most is connection with nature. Many cities have groups that get together for “herb walks”, where you can learn to identify indigenous plants that can be used in cooking or for medicine. There’s nothing that connects you more to a place than foraging local herbs and then using them to cook a beautiful, nutritious meal.
Another great way to connect with food through nature is to get into gardening. In our experience, no produce tastes better than that which you grow in your own backyard. It also tends to be more nutritious, since some nutrients can start to degrade immediately after a plant is harvested. Harvesting your veggies immediately before cooking and eating them reduces this loss of nutrients. Not only that, but being outside, digging in the dirt is a grounding and meditative experience that can greatly help to reduce stress. So if you’re feeling disconnected, look no further than your own kitchen. Not only can you save money and improve your health by learning to cook, but you might find it helps relieve the effects of digital fatigue, brings you closer to the people in your life, and opens up whole new worlds of experience.
What are some of the most surprising ways cooking has benefited you?