Psychology in the kitchen – The disappearance of flour explained by psychology

Psychology in the kitchen – The disappearance of flour explained by psychology

Cooking is a way to show affection and attention to those close to us and will share those dishes with us. But it is also a way to take care of ourselves and express our mood.


You will surely have noticed how in the period of quarantine due to Covid-19 there was a curious phenomenon: the flour disappeared in supermarkets! There is a close link between psychology and the art of cooking. Not only for an indisputable need for food for our survival but also for the evident meaning it assumes both in the social field and as a practice to promote a state of personal well-being. A sort of ‘mindfulness’, an inner journey to get to know each other better and, why not, to let those around us know better. Because our relationship with the kitchen says a lot about us too.

Circumstances undoubtedly played their part. Finding themselves spending much more time at home, many people, many more than those who usually do so, have decided to use their time cooking. Desserts, pizzas, bread, homemade pasta. Even people who normally had never dedicated themselves to cooking not only for lack of time but also because they had never felt particularly in tune with the stove.

Surely cooking has a great sharing value, it is an activity that often requires a subsequent moment in which a group, which in this period we can restrict to a family, gathers around a table and looks into each other’s eyes. Spend time together, leaving aside other distractions at least for a while, communicate, discuss. Being able to underline this moment by sharing something that gratifies the senses, such as taste, becomes an additional opportunity to ensure that the mood and disposition of the participants are the best you could wish for.

Cooking has a strong social value, as explained by Dr. Antonio Ceresa, neuroscientist, in his book La Cooking Therapy: How to transform the kitchen into a gym for the mind. Applications for neurological patients. Cooking Therapy, he explains in his book, is becoming a real medical treatment to reduce disability in various neurological (stroke, dementia, head trauma) and psychiatric (substance addictions, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa) pathologies.

In fact, cooking has the power to abstract us from what surrounds us, it removes other thoughts and makes us focus on what we are doing at that precise moment. It gives us a respite from what normally occupies our mind, a particularly useful function especially when this something is represented by worries and negative thoughts. It relieves stress (manipulating the ingredients, such as kneading the flour, has the same relaxing function as the well-known anti-stress balls), teaches how to manage time without anxiety, and also makes us feel in control of the situation, able to control and predict it, with calming and reassuring effects.

The way we cook also says a lot about us, for example it makes us understand how creative we are, how much we are able to face an unexpected event (have you ever been struggling with a recipe and in the middle of its realization you realize that you missing an essential ingredient?), how patient we know how to be in deferring a gratification and how capable we are of facing a disappointment, if our recipe turns out to be below expectations or the oven decides to play some tricks on it.

Cooking is a way to show affection and attention to those close to us and will share those dishes with us. But it is also a way to take care of ourselves and express our mood: today I cook this because it is in tune with the way I feel. If we cook only for ourselves we have the opportunity to get involved without feeling judged, free to let ourselves go and be ourselves, and free to evaluate the results we have achieved without fear of being criticized. It is also known that taking care of yourself has the power to make you happier.

Depending on whether you engage in the art of cooking alone or in company, the objectives, effects and benefits vary.

Cooking alone allows us to carve out time exclusively for ourselves, organize ourselves, manage ourselves, take the initiative, decide how to behave, for example whether to follow a pre-established plan or to put our creativity into play. And the result (if all goes well) will be a gratification to our skills.

If we cook in a group, we share an experience, we compare ourselves with others, we collaborate to achieve a common goal, we divide roles and spaces, we cement the understanding and we obtain a gratification that concerns teamwork and the ability to interact more than individual skills.

Some companies even rely on the kitchen for their team building strategy, that is those practices implemented in the field of human resources to form a cohesive group able to best express the potential of each. Colleagues who have shared an experience in the kitchen have obtained significant benefits both from the point of greater ability to collaborate and greater creativity.

Sometimes cooking also becomes an excuse to keep in touch with friends, people who may not be with us at the moment but with whom we exchange recipes, experiences and advice. Consolidate our role in a group and remove the fear of feeling alone.

Even the very conception of the kitchen, intended as a space in which to experience our cooking skills, has changed radically in recent years. If once kitchens were separate rooms where external guests did not have access, today cooking is increasingly an act of sharing. The kitchens are more open, sometimes they are one with the living room, and seeing the hostess cooking while she is waiting for lunch, perhaps collaborating on the finishing touches, is seen as something more and more normal and pleasant.

So, alone or in company, cooking helps us to confront ourselves, with our skills and our limits, it facilitates the comparison with others and the ability to collaborate. And if you feel denied about cooking, it’s time to dispel this belief: it has been proven that getting out of your comfort zone and facing a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable increases self-esteem and self-confidence! Seeing is believing.