Cooking has a great sharing value because it is an activity that often presupposes the next moment when we all get together to share food, whether a group of friends, acquaintances or family, putting aside, at least for that moment, the distractions and frustrations of everyday life.
The gratification of the senses as well as the pleasure of taste becomes an extra opportunity to ensure that the mood and positive frame of mind of the diners is as good as it can be.
Many studies have established that cooking is becoming a real medical treatment, turning the kitchen into a sort of gym of the mind (cooking therapy). In fact, through it, we are able to abstract ourselves from our surroundings, banishing tensions and negative thoughts and concentrating on what we are doing.
Even how we cook tells us about ourselves, for example it brings out creativity, problem solving skills (e.g. finding a solution when we realise an ingredient is missing), or the ability to deal with disappointment if our ‘culinary work’ does not live up to expectations.
It can also show affection and attention towards our loved ones or those who will share the food, but it is mainly a way of taking care of ourselves by expressing our mood. Cooking one thing or another is often a function of one’s mood.
Cooking alone or with others implies different goals, effects and benefits. When we do it alone, it allows us to carve out time exclusively for ourselves, to organise ourselves, to manage time, to take the initiative, to decide how to behave through an established plan or to create new dishes with the resulting gratification in case of success.
In a group, on the other hand, it is a shared experience, it is a confrontation with others, a collaboration to achieve the shared goal. Roles and spaces are shared, cementing the understanding and achieving a satisfaction that is more about teamwork than individual skills.
Some companies use it as one of their team-building tactics, precisely in order to have a more cohesive group capable of expressing their respective potential to the full.
Hence, cooking is also a very important tool to counter and cure social problems through social inclusion mechanisms such as integration, rehabilitation and training projects, not infrequently funded by the European Union, through a process of gradual integration in which participants are given the opportunity to express their skills, improve their autonomy and gain self-confidence.
There are many examples of this in many Italian realities. Here are some examples, subdivided by social sphere:
Disability: ‘Pizza Aut’, a pizzeria in the Milan area run by autistic children supported by catering and rehabilitation professionals, ‘Il Tortellante’, a therapeutic workshop in Modena supported by Massimo Bottura, or the ‘Frolla’ biscuit factory in Osimo (AN) where artisanal biscuits are sold;
Crime: ‘inGalera‘, the first restaurant born in Italy inside the Bollate (MI) prison or the craft brewery ‘Vale la pena’ for the reintegration of inmates of the Rebibbia prison in Rome;
Immigration and political refugees: ‘Gustamundo’, an ethnic restaurant operating since 2017 in Rome; the ‘Food for inclusion’ project of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (CN) with the support of UNHCR; and ‘Eat&Meet’ in Catanzaro;
Gender violence: ‘Io sono viva’, a sweet and ice-cream shop in Milan, from a project by chef Viviana Varese; or that of ‘Cuoche combattenti’ born in Palermo with the aim of moving away from nefarious environments, recovering the best traditional Sicilian dishes.
- Cooking therapy: https://www.cookingtherapy.it/ ;
- Food as a social resource: https://food-lifestyle.it/il-cibo-come-strumento-sociale-i-progetti-italiani-dove-cucinare-e-sinonimo-di-cura/ ;
- Potential of Cooking Therapy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2plUXxqJymg&ab_channel=KUM%21Festival ;
- ‘Come and Eat in Jail’, the first starred restaurant inside a prison: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKngqgXJI5g&ab_channel=Fanpage.it
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