Salt 101

All the Cool Kids Are Going to Culinary Therapy

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a millennial—whomever they may be and wherever they may reside—will harp on three trite statements like a mentally unstable cockatoo until their dying day.

  1. Everyone should be in therapy.
  2. Have you tried meditating?


  1. That is totally *in* this season. I think Bella wore it.

As a proud member of this lost and confused, trend-obsessed, adult-ish breed, I—after years of searching, months spent toiling away at the altar of “work smarter not harder,” praying to the gods of [insert over-hyped social media platform of the month here]— have found a way to combine all three.

Oh, stop drooling, Jessica.

Here it is—

Retail therapy is out this season (we’re all broke anyway) and Culinary Therapy is all the rage. Haven’t you heard?

Though I may take partial credit for the somewhat witty presentation of the fact, the concept is really no hot take. For centuries, scientists, psychologists, and masters of zen practices far and wide have proven it to be true. There’s even a profession called Cooking Therapy *opens LinkedIn immediately*. According to The Wall Street Journal, therapists are using cooking classes to treat depression, anxiety, and psychological disorders in patients.

So it’s true. Cooking is a meditative form of therapy.

That said, I am admittedly, the first person to roll my eyes when a conversation about “having a bad day” inevitably sparks that one friend—you know the one—to bring up how morning mindfulness and meditation #totallysavedtheirlife.

Ommmmm, shut up and let me bitch about my freaking boss, Jason.

Disclaimer: Jessica and Jason are not actually real people, but apparently I have a very special vendetta against J names today…

However, the merits here do add up. Even I can admit it. It makes sense that during the pandemic 56% of survey respondents picked up cooking as a new hobby and self-care practice in a time of global distress.

Cooking takes the best parts of meditating and therapy—taking time for yourself and checking in with your mind, repetitive practices, being fully present, focus, creativity, peace and quiet away from the go go go of reality—and brings it one step further. Not only does it nourish your brain, but the fruits of your labor feed your body too...also butter is involved.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor at the University of Chicago, found that cooking is the seventh most enjoyable part of one’s day, placing it high up on the list, only after the obvious activities like sex, sleep, and actually eating the food.  

Put simply, everything is better in the kitchen. Ok ok, not like that…get your mind out of the gutter! But seriously the practice acts on every sense—

Intrusive thoughts? Fry something. The sound of the sizzling will drown them out.

Repressed emotions? Cut an onion. They’ll get you crying.

Homesick? Bake a pie. Your kitchen will smell like Main Street…yes, all of them, everywhere.

Feeling out of control? Follow a recipe.

Creatively blocked? Make one up.

Overwhelmed, flustered, and stressed about the state of the world? Yeah, me too. Flip through cookbooks until all you can think about is oven space and alternative milks. The supreme court be damned.

Feeling like you don’t have agency over your own life? Break every culinary rule and experiment. Go full rebel without a cause.

Heartbroken? Make cookies. They fix everything. I promise.

Whipping up a meal is an activity busy enough to keep you occupied for a while, productive enough to be reason to cancel plans, quiet enough to be an exhale after a long day, monotonous enough to watch Gossip Girl reruns while chopping, and unpredictable enough to force you to resign to the fact that it will only sometimes go the way you want it to, but it’ll be fun either way.

The best part is that cooking doesn’t promise more than it can deliver. Unlike the expectation of peace and nirvana that most forms of therapy and meditation sell themselves on, cooking a meal when you’ve had a hard day or simply have a lot on your mind, doesn’t claim to leave you with more than a meal. The rest is extra. An added benefit. An emotionally-rewarding surprise. The seasoning on top.

So yes, the trend reports are in. The woo woo wellness fans are appeased. The shrinks, calm. The millennials, satisfied…for once.

It’s 2023 and all the cool kids are stressed but hey,  at least they’re cooking.

TDLR: Why do you think it’s called comfort food, in the first place?!