Mood and food

(I like rhymes.  I like words with “oo”s.)

Most of the professional bakers I have met are really relaxed people: never in a rush, they always pull things out of the oven at just the right time.  They don’t fiddle anxiously with the lemon curd in mortal fear of it curdling or hover over the meringue as the mixer whips.  They are cool, like cucumbers, or Canadian cities in January.

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more how my mood affects the food I make.  A few weeks ago I made a millet salad.  I was in a crummy mood.  The salad was crap.  I ended up throwing it out.

Over the years I’ve noticed that whenever I bake bread and try to rush the process, it never turns out and I end up making compostable door stops.  So now I don’t bother unless I know I have the time, or at least I try to be organized enough to get started sooner than later.  When I am working the dough, I take on a placid demeanour as I think of unicorns and buttercups.  Peaceful dough makes good bread.

In high school there was a fierce vegetarian in the grade ahead of me that had a sticker inside her locker that said, “If you are what you eat, does that make you dead meat?”  Tough question.  My response: “Uh, maybe…no I’m not eating a beef patty….I have to go to class…any class…”  

I do think though that our emotions affect the food we make, and how well we digest it.  Emotions need to be metabolized just like carbohydrates, protein and fat.

So, here are some Muffin Lady endorsed tips to ensure that your cooking mood is good and so is your food:

– Feeling rushed while making food is no fun, so try to plan out your kitchen strategy.  Timetables.  Charts.  Flow diagrams.  Venn diagrams.  Get out that Sharpie and drawing paper!  Magazines targeted at yummy mummies often suggest devoting Sunday afternoon to prepping meals for the week.  Why not?  Fit it in between soccer practice and unstructured play time.  

– To lift your spirits while cooking, put on some mood-enhancing music.  If your heart is heavy from thwarted love, I suggest Gloria Gaynor’s hit, “I will survive.”  James Brown’s “Get up offa that thing” is an excellent cure-all.

– Pour yourself a drink: water, decaffeinated coffee, looseleaf peppermint tea, Five Alive, Bordeaux….something.  Hydration improves brain function.  With that, I suppose I should encourage the water option…

– Pretend you are the host of a cooking show and describe out loud what you are doing, as you are doing it.  I like to pretend I’m Paula Deen.  Nothing like a southern accent to jazz things up in the kitchen.

– Last resort?  Wear neon.  It works.  Trust.