My involvement with the group Wooster Square Cooks has had many positive effects.
One of which is that I have come to understand how important food is to a fairly large segment of our community. The people with whom I interact on that Facebook page are committed, dedicated and interested in good food.
“How is this possible?” I ask myself. Aren’t we at a point in time when most of the food we eat is either prepared by others, or limited to things that require only the most basic cooking skills? Everyone is too busy to cook, right?
How is it then, that during the course of less than one year, almost 4,000 people have joined a group that is dedicated to the preparation and enjoyment of home cooked food? What is motivating these people to want to look at, talk about, and actually cook food in their own kitchens?
First and most importantly, they view the preparation of good food as an enjoyable experience, and they understand that making food for others is an overt act of kindness and a reflection of their belief in the value of homemade food. When you take the time to purchase fine ingredients and turn them into a delicious meal, you are giving your family and friends a very personal gift.
Why is this so important at this point in time? Why are we moving away from what seemed to be a trend to minimize the value of cooking at home? Is it possible that in the midst of so much activity that surrounds most people’s daily routines, cooking can help us settle down and even distract us from the tribulations of world events and carpooling schedules. Yes, it does take some time and planning; one doesn’t just open the fridge and pull out all the ingredients for dinner without having placed them there beforehand (never mind shop for the fixings). But you can have things at the ready for a meal if you just think it through.
I’m fascinated by the interaction among so many of the WSC followers - they support each other, they admire each effort and encourage neophytes to try again. It’s a real community of believers in the value of simple food. For a lot of us, it also connects us with the meals that we shared with our families at our mother’s table, the food that came over with our immigrant ancestors. Who doesn’t want to sit at that table again?
The other special aspect of this group is the emphasis on utilizing fresh seasonal ingredients. A byproduct has been the involvement of a growing number of cooks with a program called “Misfits.” This program involves subscribing to a plan through which a box of fresh produce is delivered to your home each week for a standard price. The term misfits is used to describe the produce as not being nice enough to be on display at the market, perhaps misshapen or slightly off color. But everything is fresh and wholesome. The cooks are challenged to utilize the contents of the box to prepare tasty meals.
The most important element in my view, is that they are using produce that might otherwise be discarded, so it’s a kind of win/win situation. The food that might have been relegated to some bin gets used in kitchens by cooks who know how to make delicious meals out of contents of the box.
An additional benefit has emerged: According to the Wall Street Journal, logging time in the kitchen is so good for your well-being that some therapists are recommending cooking classes as a way to treat depression and anxiety.
Through the combination of self-care, creative output, mindfulness, and a sense of control, cooking for yourself or others can be a huge boon to your mental wellbeing—although your grandmother probably already knew that.
I’ve learned so much from my WSC friends, not the least of which is to seek satisfaction from life’s simpler pleasures.
Visit Wooster Square Cooks on Facebook.