With the discovery of fire humans first learned how to cook. Cooking is what sets us apart from other animals. The argument can be made that cooking and cooking alone is what played the developmental role in creating our advanced species, turning us from naked apes to modern humans. Humans are so much smarter because we can cook!
Cooking breaks down fibers making nutrients more readily available, so our digestive systems required less energy to get the calories we need to live and function well. Research suggests that this increase in readily available and easily digestible calories lead to our increased brain size. We no longer had to spends hours chewing raw foods just to survive we now had more than we need to provide energy to live and extra time to do other things leading to more advanced human development over centuries. This is still true even today when we have become so “smart” that we now have machines that make food for us so we have even more time to do other things.
But my questions to you is: Have we gotten too smart and advanced in allowing so much of our food to be prepared by machines? Outsourcing the act of cooking to companies so much are we actually starting to go the other way. By not cooking are we a becoming less smart and connected?
When we cook we are using a variety of cognitive skills at the same time to create a meal. Even before we touch the ingredients a meal idea is formed and organized. To plan a meal takes anticipation, strategic ability, advance planning, and problem solving. The actual physical “work” of chopping, mixing and kneading uses hand-eye coordination, develops motion control. As meal time nears jugging the cooking times and preparing several items at ones takes concentration, visual, spatial awareness and memory skills as we multitask ensuring all the pieces come together just as we had planned hopefully. If not you are back to problem solving and improvising “Plan B” for dinner.
Making and sharing a meal is also a way to stimulate social skills and language development in young children. The activity of dining together actually helps us stay mentally fit. Several research studies show that sharing a meal together is good for the overall health and wellbeing of the entire family. Cooking not only helps our brains stay fit but also keeps us happier because we are connecting and creating community together while sharing a meal.
Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford, explains a study related to how food choices influence mood. She writes:
“Now, most of us think that eating out is a treat, and that indulgent meals are a special reward. But this study found that women were significantly happier and less stressed after eating at home, and after eating healthier meals.”
“The home is a privileged environment that nurtures healthy eating and in which healthier food choices trigger more positive emotions.”
I believe fully that food is needed for us to live and cooking is an essential life skill we all need to lead happy, healthy, quality lives but through food we can also learn about math, science, art, history and culture. Through cooking we allow for so much more than just filling our stomachs. Cooking helps us stay smart, happy and leave a legacy.
For more ideas on how to incorporate these elements in your everyday meals contact me today for a free phone session and find out how to enhance your strengths and create more value in your family meals.