It has now reached the pointy end of the semester. Assignments are really starting pile up now and I am trying to work out how on earth everything is going to get done by the due date. With all of these tasks and dates floating around my head I started to get overwhelmed. By the time I finished work on Friday afternoon I had just about enough of study for the week. I got home and tried to force myself to do some work. My head was cloudy and motivation was low.
I knew that I had to do something but just couldn’t bring myself to, so I decided to bake. On Saturday night my family went over to my zia and zio’s house for dinner. I wanted to bring dessert and my Peanut Butter Caramel Slice was highly requested by my zio.
What started out as just making the slice turned into a batch of Nutella brownies and salmon nourish bowls for dad and I. I must have been in the kitchen for at least three hours. To be honest though it felt like five minutes. For me cooking and baking is my escape and it has been like that for a while.
When I was doing my law degree I was always highly stressed. I could not find a moment to myself and my mind was always racing. On Monday evenings I had a job as a nanny. I would walk down to the kids' local primary school at 3:30pm to pick them up, walk them home and keep them entertained until their parents came home. In that time with the girls we always baked. Every Monday we would choose a new recipe to make together (usually cookies or muffins) and bake them together. There was something about being in the kitchen with the kids that made my heart really happy (and at times stressed that we were going to make a massive mess). It was around this time that I noticed how powerful distracting the mind could be. I would always leave feeling like I had just meditated.
Baking was something that I was always encouraged to do from a young age. Both my nonnas are incredible in the kitchen. I also feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Bruno’s nonna and nonno who I am definitely keen to learn a thing or two from. Food is at the centre of my family gatherings and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t matter how busy my nonnas were with work and family dinner time was a ritual. A time when we would all sit down at the table together to eat what they had created.
Saturday night was definitely a special night. Zio had the gyros going from 2:30pm and zia worked tirelessly in the kitchen (Prosecco in hand) in the afternoon. We were greeted with an incredible cheese platter and an aroma to die for. Bruno made tzatziki to go in the wraps, I had dessert covered and we literally just spent the night in fits of laughter. Its moments like this that I think my nonnas would be proud. It wasn’t about inviting us over to impress us, it was purely to spend time together laughing and reminiscing.
“Sharing meals with people isn't about having to act as if you're opening a little restaurant in your own home. The act of sitting down together is more important than what you are putting on the table. The food doesn't have to be anything complicated; it can be a bowl of soup. It's about the act, not about a brand; to have a few minutes where you take a pause from all the madness, and just chat, enjoy a meal, and connect.” – Nigella Lawson.
A study published in the Journal of Adaptive Behaviour and Psychology found that that people who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves and to have a wider social network capable of providing social and emotional support. The study also revealed that evening meals at which laughter and reminiscences occur and alcohol is drunk are especially likely to enhance feelings of closeness.
As I sit here writing this post, my list of assignments to be completed by my side, I don’t regret that few hours I spent in the kitchen on Friday night. It alleviated my feelings of stress, tasted delicious and ultimately just made me feel good. There is a special feeling that comes from sharing food with others. Food can often communicate feelings that words never can. Why is it that when someone passes away we all bring food? It is a common ground. An act of kindness and generosity. It says “I care and I am here for you.” Isn’t it incredible that something as simple as food and sharing that food can say so much?
“In a way, to turn around a bit in your kitchen, throw something together and put it into a bowl — all of that can be part of your routine of shaking off the world, giving you that feeling I'm at home now. I think that's what's important about sitting down together and eating food that you make. It's not about impressing other people or feeling that you're a better person for doing this. It's just actually about you claiming some space, in your home and in your life.” – Nigella Lawson.
The fits of laughter (and food coma) were so real on Saturday. We ate so much food and played so many games of Uno, Old Maid, Go Fish and Trouble. It may sound corny but I can’t think of another way I would have rather spent my Saturday night.
If you’re feeling a bit stressed, maybe it’s time to take a step back from reality for a bit to bake a cake and enjoy it with someone you love. These are some pictures of some of the beautiful results that have come from times of intense stress ….