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Therapeutic Kitchen Tasks


lannie
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. . . . .

Many times I have solved problems that have been bugging me, during these periods of introspection.  I have at times startled people around me by yelling, "Hey!  I just realized something, etc., etc., etc.," and begin talking about my idea. 

Sometimes I look around and realize no one has any idea about my subject because the entire event has taken place inside my head. 

. . . . .

You are so right. There are three places that I solve really complex problems, the shower, on an airplane looking out the window, and in the kitchen doing some repetitive task. It is like all of the details of the problem get stored in some part of my brain and I "put it away." Then, maybe days later, during one of these sojourns, the solution kind of "pops out." In the kitchen, it is usually during chopping some lots of stuff.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I really enjoy chopping like so many others here. Also making gnocchi and kneading bread dough. But the thing I Like most is sharpening knives. I really have to focus on maintaining that angle.

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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Slicing mushrooms. I don't know what it is about it, I just enjoy the task a lot. Whether it's actual slices or halves or quarters, I just like cutting up mushrooms.

Whipping egg whites by hand. Unless I'm really in a rush, I get out the whisk and get into a rhythm.

I also like doing the flip - it helps to have a correctly shaped pan. I also found that even though I'm strongly right handed, I do better flips with my left hand.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Stuffing potstickers is very relaxing. So easy to turn out a 100+. The Man Person usually interrupts the stuffing with his hungry/whining/drooling plea, "Oh boy, are we gonna fry and eat all of them?!" :raz:

Suzanne
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I find that chopping vegetables is a total zen for me. When my knife is good and sharp I just get into a rhythm and although I'm paying attention to what I'm doing, I kind of zone out.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Stuffing potstickers is very relaxing. So easy to turn out a  100+. The Man Person usually interrupts the stuffing with his hungry/whining/drooling plea, "Oh boy, are we gonna fry and eat all of them?!"  :raz:

I had forgotten about this. I can stuff pleat and stuff and pleat some more. It is very calming. Some great tunes, a pile of filling and skins. I get into a rythm that just makes me happy.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Knife work for sure! The world is a much better place after I've brunoised 1 or 2 pounds of carrots... Carrots are also a lot cheaper than a therapist :laugh:

Baking of any kind also puts me in a very pleasurable zone... only because I'm always so amazed when I succeed.

Sheesh ... remember when it took "special" herbs and mushrooms to reach those highs :rolleyes:

Cheese: milk’s leap toward immortality – C.Fadiman

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I actually told a friend once that I couldn't go to a movie with her because I had to reduce my beef stock.  :wacko:  She offered to refer me to a good therapist.  :laugh:

Stock over shlock? Mais oui!

As someone who spent yesterday making a really great daube de boeuf, I certainly agree with this. Next time, you can suggest that the friend bring over a nice bottle of cotes du rhone, sit down, and share a glass while the bones simmer. At least you'll find it therapeutic!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Although we're discussing kitchen tasks that are therapeutic, we're talking about that in the emotional sense.  However, some are physically therapeutic as well.

My mother-in-law was in a car accident when she was in her late teens and injured her wrist badly.  The physician told her that the best therapy for her would be to knead bread.  Fifty years later, she still bakes bread regularly and if she doesn't, her wrist starts to throb.  And as we all know, the smell of freshly baked bread is about as emotionally therapeutic as anything else!

Great point, Varmint. I work in early childhood education, and cooking is one of the great ways to teach fine motor development, especially "sensory integration," or the process by which all of your different senses start to work together in parallel. Squeezing, cutting, sifting, measuring, pouring -- these are all incredibly powerful means to help children grow.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Stuffing potstickers is very relaxing. So easy to turn out a  100+. The Man Person usually interrupts the stuffing with his hungry/whining/drooling plea, "Oh boy, are we gonna fry and eat all of them?!"  :raz:

I had forgotten about this. I can stuff pleat and stuff and pleat some more. It is very calming. Some great tunes, a pile of filling and skins. I get into a rythm that just makes me happy.

I also kind of "zonk out" when I am making cheese. Cutting the curd into cubes then gently stirring, then lifting the curd from the whey and turning it onto a draining pan.

Making mozzarella is even more therapeutic, working the curd in the hot water and dipping my hands into cold water then back into the hot. It is as good as the hot/cold therapy baths at a physical therapist's office.

And even better, when you are finished you have something delicious to eat!

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Oh, I almost forgot because I haven't done it in a while. Cleaning up after a large party or supper. Again, task lighting only, and music. No matter what time it is, I put on a big, clean apron, pour a glass of wine, light the Berger lamp and start the ritual of putting away, rinsing, stacking the dishwasher, and washing the delicate stemware by hand. I insist on being by myself for these tasks. And of course, only certain dishwashing detergents will do for these moments, probably because of the scent - must be either the classic Palmolive or Sunlight.

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I actually enjoy cleaning squid, and feel a little cheated that it usually comes pre-cleaned these days. I used to love peeling off the thin purple skin, reaching around inside for the cartilage, squeezing the guts out. I'd have to clean pounds of it before I'd get tired of it.

I also love stuffing things, from Chinese dumplings to Greek stuffed vegetables or grape leaves--I don't know why stuffed food is so much fun to make and eat and so universally popular.

So it goes without saying that I love to make stuffed squid...

I don't have a dishwasher, and am the only person in the house who will wash the dishes. I cook like a fiend and abhor doing dishes...they're the fly in my ointment, but I keep on cooking anyway. Does anyone know anyone else that doesn't own a dishwasher? Sometimes I feel like the only one on the planet... :huh:

Jennifer Brizzi

Author of "Ravenous," a food column for Ulster Publishing (Woodstock Times, Kingston Times, Dutchess Beat etc.) and the food blog "Tripe Soup"

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Being in the kitchen period is therapeutic :raz:

But if i had to chose, some of my favorites are:

kneading dough (any dough), cutting brunoise, cutting through a whole fish especially taking fillets out of the smaller ones like sardines or red mullet, monter a sauce with butter, trimming small vegetables such as baby carrots or turnips, rutabagas etc...trimming meats...

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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I don't have a dishwasher, and am the only person in the house who will wash the dishes. I cook like a fiend and abhor doing dishes...they're the fly in my ointment, but I keep on cooking anyway. Does anyone know anyone else that doesn't own a dishwasher? Sometimes I feel like the only one on the planet... :huh:

You're not alone. I don't own a dishwasher either. :angry: But then I don't pay for my water use in my apartment so it's a trade-off.

Like you, I love to cook but abhor doing dishes. I have found, though, that I tend to "zone out" when I do the dishes. My mind goes to Tahiti while I wash the them.

So I guess doing the dishes is therapeutic for me. But the rest of me would much rather join my mind in the tropics than do them. :raz:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I also love the chopping, and I am really into the 'flip'. I flip sauteed vegetables or what ever. Anything in a saute pan. It's cool, impressive to people who can't do it, although if I can do it, anyone can. I feel so....in control that I can flip my pan and go on with what I'm doing without giving it another thought. It's almost like a zone that I don't realize I'm in.

It seems so ridiculous, but I can totally identify.

Nothing to see here.

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I don't have a dishwasher, and am the only person in the house who will wash the dishes. I cook like a fiend and abhor doing dishes...they're the fly in my ointment, but I keep on cooking anyway. Does anyone know anyone else that doesn't own a dishwasher? Sometimes I feel like the only one on the planet... :huh:

I certainly do, and I feel your pain!! I haven't had a dishwasher in my last 3 apartments...so that's 9 years with dishpan hands. Gives me a great excuse for a weekly manicure, though! :laugh: And fwiw, when I have a bunch of people over, I am more than happy to let them clean up! No shame in that. :wink:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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all of the above. Really, all aspects of food shopping, planning, gathering, prepping, cooking, and perhaps to a lesser extent cleaning ( don't like emptying the dw, but LOVE the counter top wipedown, gleaming and ready for the next project) .

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Cuting up meat.

A whole strip loin, tenderloin, rib eye, chicken. I take a lot of satisfaction in taking a big hunk of gnarly looking beef and turning it into beautifully trimmed and portioned steaks. A chicken - I can take that baby apart and make more beautiful and consistent pieces than you'll ever find in a supermarket. Plus, I have the backs and giblets for stock. A beautiful thing.

Chopping vegetables. Any and all. Rough, julienne, dice, brunoise, or mince. It doesn't matter.

"The Flip" - I learned how to do this from a cook that could flip eggs, one pan in each hand, while working at a Greek, Family-Style restaurant:

First, you have to have a slope - sided pan. Put a piece of bread in it, tip the front of the pan down, flip the bread while visualizing the front edge moving in a tear-shaped ellipse.

You're kind of pushing the pan away from you, which bounces the contents of the pan off the back edge, to encourage the flip. Practice enough with bread, and you'll be successfully flipping eggs, and pretty much anything else you want.

Hopefully that helps.

Steve

"Tell your friends all around the world, ain't no companion like a blue - eyed merle" Robert Plant

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For me it's doughs. While for most of my breads, I'm mixing and kneading in my Kitchen Aid these days, I do have my hands in a floury mixture several times a week. I love the smell of the flour, the soft feeling as it coats my hands, the loose, sticky texture as I start to mix in the water, and the beginning of the feeling of cohesion that I get as it comes together.

I do it 3x a week to mix up the feed for my sourdough starter, and just did two batches of puff pastry, mixing the détrempe by hand. Then I get the pleasure of mashing some butter into the flour before adding the water.

Rolling out the dough and doing the turns or shaping bread loaves is just the icing on the cake. Soft, pillowy dough, pliable, more flour on the hands. Watching the puff dough stretch out, knowing there are those layers of buttery goodness inside...

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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My answer may seem strange but here it goes, in two parts...

I find ANY sustained cooking task--chopping, basting, pastry, making a souffle, whatever--completely therapeutic so long as I'm not pressed for time. Which unfortunately is more often than not. Sometimes the nicest thing I can do for myself is to forego the Friday night out, turn off the phone, and stay home with a new or favorite recipe, some good music, and some wine.

My other odd-ball relaxation is cleaning up from a successful dinner party. It doesn't matter how hectic the prep, I always enjoy the company and the meal. But I get the greatest sense of satisfaction when it's 2 am, I shut the door behind the last guest, and look at what's left behind. All those dishes, wine glasses, pans, and the late hour tell me that everyone had a great evening. So I put on some cool music, load the dishawasher, wash the crystal by hand, put the empty wine bottles in the recycle bin, and when it's all over, pour myself a small cognac.

But unlike fifi, I dread unloading the dishwasher in the morning.


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Like many others here, I'd have to answer, making anything wrapped -- potstickers, wontons, stuffed grape leaves, sushi rolls. Making and decorating small cookies. Making pancakes. Anything repetitive.

Sometimes when it's late at night and the house is quiet, I sort through my spice rack, opening each jar and sniffing or tasting a pinch for freshness. Nirvana.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Stirring Fuddddddge. Or pudding or Creme Anglaise, just as it gets that little LOOK of almost ready, and the thickening.

We make about a hundred pounds of homemade fudge and other dipped candies every Christmas, as gifts and for drop-ins, open houses, etc. Doesn't sound like much in this day of factory-produced everything, but making one five-pound pot at a time takes quite a while.

I use wooden paddles, about wooden spoon size, flat-edged and ever-so-slightly slanted; one has a series of slits and I watch the flow of the liquid through the openings as I stroke the mixture gently, coaxing it into silky cohesion. The paddles clear the entire pan bottom in about five swirls, as opposed to a metal spoon which clears a path the size of a thread with each stir.

All the final ingredients lie ready to hand: the heavy slabs of Callebaut dark with great mounds of chopped pieces lying beside; golden-toasted pecans or cashews or macadamias, the dried cranberries and golden raisins and stemmed, well-blotted maraschinos, the sumptuous dark richness of Madagascar vanilla.

My trance is usually interrupted by the ding of the timer, signaling the end of cooking time, but there's just a KNOWING to it, the ripple of the bubbles, the wake of the paddle as it grows heavier with the thickness of the fudge.

I like walking past all the filled pans, seeing the satin sheen of the surfaces change as the stilling, firming process continues; the rows of evenly-spaced nut halves or small marshmallows or stripes or feathering---there's a satisfaction in the finished product.

And meditation in the preparation.

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Definitely making stock. Not only because to me it represents the act of caring for my family, but also because it involves so many other theraputic tasks ... chopping, peeling (with my new Wustof paring knife!), skimming, tasting ... :biggrin:

I also enjoy filetting fish. I learned from an old employer who I still buy my fish from. It's something that I can do that neither of my parents can do ... or my wife for that matter. It makes me feel "needed."

A.

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I find the repetitiveness of baking cookies quite soothing, usually late at night after the house is quiet and my preschooler has gone to bed.

Also washing dishes by hand at the cabin to work off a few calories (emphasis on few) after a satisfying dinner out on the deck... somehow, it just seems to underscore the fact that everyone has eaten well and is enjoying that pleasingly full feeling on a warm summer night. And the knowledge that, as soon as the dishes are done, I'll be back out on that deck with postprandial drink in hand. Even more satisfying when with my husband... one washes and the other dries... the simple pleasure of either reviewing the day's events or the quiet, wordless synchronicity of our working rhythm.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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