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Do you cook when you're down?

When I've had a bad day (or week, or month...), cooking is one of the first things that goes out the window. I enjoy it well enough when I'm fair-to-good, but if I'm stressed out or just wallowing in depression, it feels like such a chore.

Do you resort to take out or convenience foods when you're down, or is cooking something you enjoy so much that it's an escape from what ails you? If the latter, has it always been that way or is it a learned thing?

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  1. While cycling is my best escape from my own head cooking is a good second and this winter has not been cooperative on cycling

    why - it is all consuming - cannot dwell on too many bad things if you are working on an emulsion or trying to get your custard set or chopping away at your mirepoix

    also it is a creative act with instant gratification

    if I tackle some complicated dish I get lost in it and loose my worries

    1. I don't cook, but I sure eat! Last week I was tired, had a sinus headache, worried about various things, and I ate a bag of cheesy puffs and half a roll of cookie dough for dinner. And the other half for breakfast.

      1. When I'm truly depressed, I have zero appetite -- which pretty much translates into the kitchen staying cold.

        Takeout is the magical word for those times.

        1. I do!! I prepare certain comfort foods that soothe my aching soul.
          I also play lots of Freecell. It's my Zen meditation thingy.

          1. If I am depress, then I just do very simple cooking. Simple cooking is still fine, and it does not make me feel too bad, but I won't be in the mood to cook anything remotely complicated.

            I don't do take out when I am depressed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              This is how I operate too. My cooking becomes very simple.

            2. I'm rarely down but when I feel off making a favorite meal that is also really healthful with lots of veggies will snap me right out of it. Indulging in a "convenience foods" binge would be the worst thing in the world for me since it results in feeling sluggish and crappy and creating a blood sugar rollercoaster that ends in a crash which just makes things worse. Plus, chopping veggies is a great stress reliever and the sense of accomplishment from making an awesome meal is uplifting.

              I think either one is learned. If you grew up in a "Oh, you poor thing, have a cookie," household or a "I had a bad day, I *deserve* junk food," household you're more likely to repeat that behavior. (I watch one of my dearest friends do this to herself and suffer the health consequences for it.)

              3 Replies
              1. re: weezieduzzit

                Not sure it's a simple either/or -- superhealthy veggie dish vs. crappy junk food, which none of the replies so far indicate (unless I missed something).

                Take-out is lazy, for sure, but it doesn't *need* to be "crappy junk."

                1. re: linguafood

                  I didn't say anything about take out at all. I only addressed "convenience foods." The OP asked "Do you resort to take out or convenience foods when you're down" and convenience foods are generally defined as processed prepared foods (microwave or oven meals, etc.) I also mentioned that it "would be the worst thing in the world for ME."

                  conĀ·venĀ·ience food
                  plural noun: convenience foods

                  a food, typically a complete meal, that has been pre-prepared commercially and so requires little cooking by the consumer.

                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                    "Convenience food" could just as well mean a roti chicken from the supermarket, which is easy, convenient and tasty, and far from unhealthy or overly processed.

                    Thanks for the language lesson, tho!

              2. Cooking and eating become chores. I try to be budget conscious so take out is more of a last resort. If I eat its usually peanut butter or cream cheese on saltines or a glass of kefir. The bf scrounges for leftovers. But I've found that if I'm down or sick I make too many mistakes while cooking. Cooking is my escape from boredom.

                1. Just the bare minimum. The fam still wants meals so I trot out easy favorites - doctored ramen, heat a bag of premade meatballs. If it were just me, I'd live on cheese and crackers and wine.

                  1. when im down, i usually bake bread. and eat it all.

                    1. The same thing I cook when I'm up.

                      1. I can't recall the last time I purchased takeout foods, so yes, I cook when I'm low in spirits.

                        Sometimes it's as simple as scrambled eggs with cream cheese; sometimes it's the longer cook dish like a beef stew, because the smells filling the house is comforting. And sometimes is something that requires lots of preparation, stirring, chopping. Chopping is soothing to me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          "stirring, chopping. Chopping is soothing to me."

                          I also think that slicing up vegetables and herbs with a good, sharp knife is therapeutic. Cooking is always a pick-me-up for me, especially if there's a bottle of booze involved (one for the pan sauce, one for the cook...)

                          Now if I'm feeling mad instead, making bread or pizza dough is just the thing. Kneading the dough, slapping it on the counter and punching it down as good as hitting the punching bag at the gym. My pizzas always turn out better when I knead angry.

                        2. I always cook. I haven't had takeout in longer than I can remember. Recently I've been pretty down and not much feeling like cooking or eating but I force myself to do it. I learned from the past that convenience food never really satisfies and usually just makes me feel worse. Cooking is usually a hobby for me and fun, when I'm down it's more of a chore but I push through and things usually turn around soon enough. Right now I'm waiting for that soon enough to come.

                          1. It depends. The foods I find most comforting are specific to my ethnic background, which is not well-represented where I live and which means I have no choice but to cook when I feel like a pick me up. Of course there are days when I really just can't be bothered and delivery sushi is the treat du jour. Preferably ordered online since we New Yorkers can't bother with something so odious as human contact when we're cranky.

                            1. I cook rain or shine, good mood or bad mood...not cooking isn't really an option.

                              1. Feeding people is a major mood booster for me, so I cook more when I'm down than when I'm up. Today, for example, has been an endless string of annoyance, frustration, and generally crappy stuff, so I went out at lunch and bought a bunch of ice cream and fixings for the office. It makes me feel better to do something like that. Making (and eating) a big pot of meatballs and sauce always lifts me up too.

                                True emergencies, however, call for McD's fries and a chocolate milkshake.

                                1. When i can tell i'm halfway to The Land of Feeling Shitty spending the time and energy on cooking myself a nourishing meal can help immensley.
                                  If i feel supershitty already i lose my appetite. Occasionally a strenous gym class can help pull me away from the funk as well as increase my appetite.

                                  1. It does feel like a chore, so I resort to cheese & crackers, frozen peas, cereal, & the like. But if I can manage to convince myself to cook, I feel better and am glad I did.

                                    1. Typically, I do. I have a toddler with food allergies; most take out that I would want doesn't work for her. But it usually involves reheating something out of the freezer (pulled pork, lasagna, soup) rather than a full from scratch meal start to finish.

                                      Granted today I didn't want to cook. I had a pair of worts on my foot treated yesterday and they hurt like Heck with extended standing. So BLTs I thought, going to the upright freezer to get bacon. Which started a frozen meat avalanche, so I had to completely repack that shelf. (For the record, out of pork chops, but have several loin roasts. Need to get chicken. Have 10 strip steaks. Need to get ground beef. Have a whole turkey breast from 2 years ago. . .oops)

                                      I allow myself one Friday evening per month with take out pizza. And then leftovers for a couple of lunches next week, that makes me happy!

                                      1. Yes,...but I am too sad to talk about it!

                                        1. I don't cook well when I'm depressed, I admit. Mostly I don't cook at all. It's hard to love anything when I feel like that.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: YAYME

                                            I feel you. Nothing is worth the effort, because none of it is going to be good enough anyway.... BLAH.

                                          2. I find cooking therapeutic. I usually make avgolemono soup, roast chicken or grilled cheese when I've got the blahs.

                                            When I can't find my get up and cook, I resort to my favourite take-out: veal/chicken parm sandwiches, goulash soup, souvlaki, shawarma, fried garlic tomatoes from my favourite Middle Eastern place, West Indian curry chicken, chicken roti or old school Chinese Canadian food (which is getting harder and harder to find where I live).

                                            1. I recently have been going through a culinary/appetite *decline*. Very sorrowful when an ardent CH suffers a loss of their healthy appetite:( I keep fresh fruit in my house at all times to snack on. I also keep dried soups, canned sardines, smoked oysters, canned tuna, fresh eggs, some frozen vegetables, butter, jams and bread in the freezer just in case I am not cooking *real meals* from scratch. My B/F will buy take out and bring it over when my appetite is on the *fritz*.

                                              1. I cook a pot of beans or soup when the weather is dull in the winter, and I am sort of blue. If I still baked, I would bake then too.

                                                If I have had a bad upset, I probably would not cook until I was calm.

                                                1. If I'm that down, I don't cook anything. I eat cereal, call the dogs to the bed and hunker down. Corgis are so attuned to my mood, that they won't move until I do.

                                                  Oatmeal, steel cut, with cinnamon.

                                                  Edit: Corgis - well, except for the outside issues, of course.

                                                  1. When I'm either feeling stressed or feeling 'down' is when I pull food from the freezer. I always have many different foods available from our chest freezer. If I'm not even that motivated, then it's either breakfast for supper or takeout.

                                                    1. I am intrigued by the responses to this thoughtful thread. Seems like there are generally two camps: 1) those that do not cook when depressed, and resort to convenience foods, wine and snacks, and probably just wine at some point; and, 2) those that retreat into cooking as a diversion...maybe including wine as well. I'm guilty of both.

                                                      A good pick-me-up is to send out an email to friends for a dinner party on a whim. And then when everyone responds that they are coming (which you know that they will because you all are great cooks), then you get this inner creative energy to do something. Because, at that point, you have to.....

                                                      1. I cook like crazy but eat very little of it... lately I have been going through some doors and have reallllllly made some amazing dishes for family dinner plus brought camel shaped cookies to the teachers at school for wednsday, catered a brisket lunch for my dads work did baby shower and pot luck dish for mom and messed around with some monocular stuff...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                            lol-- yes yes of course it is singularly the hotest new trend...focusing on one flavour and colour througout the entire meal.... I meant molecular of course ...but my phone is smarter than me...

                                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                I like molecular cooking, but when I do it, I always wear my monocle!

                                                          2. I usually have my husband make his yummy entree salads when I am down. Sometimes I'll make grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup. But, no, I generally don't cook when I am down.

                                                            1. Yeah. When I'm down it's usually because I'm stuck in my head somewhere. So the best thing to do is something physical that requires attention, like picking parsley or doing a bunch of knifework, which is also relaxing. I actually don't approach food as a "comfort" thing and the way I eat is pretty well separated from my emotions. My main connection with cooking is intellectual/creative, and it's this that's missing when I cook whe I'm down.

                                                              It doesn't always work of course. One time I was already frustrated and spent a few hours making this bizarre coffee cake where the whole thing felt wrong - weird ingredient amounts, odd texture, way more batter produced than the recipe listed - and came out of the oven okay but not something I wanted to eat. So I took one bite, said whatever, and decided the best use was to throw the rest of it at a brick wall.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                I hear you. This opens another thread possibility: How are your dishes different if made while you're down vs. when you're feeling happy.

                                                                1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                  I agree, I miss the creative process more than the comfort. These days I don't feel like cooking but I still do it. It's fine, but I really miss the creative joy it usually brings. Right now food is simple.

                                                                2. When I'm down/depressed, I don't want to cook or bake. But I have come to learn that baking is a great way to lift my spirits. Dough is happy. So when I force myself to get into that kitchen and get it done, magic happens.

                                                                  1. I'm just 2 weeks post-total knee replacement. We initially were eating well from all the stuff I had frozen prior to surgery. We both then hit a "bored with it all" wall, so resorted to multiple nights of take-out--vaguely filling, but not so satisfying stuff.

                                                                    Yesterday, while Mr. P. did some outside work, I surprised him by hobbling around the kitchen enough to throw together a creamy rice pudding. Had to take several rest breaks (it's amazing how little endurance I have at the moment). Didn't have whole milk for the best version, so subbed evaporated, which worked okay. We filled our bowls, sat in the sun (was 80 yesterday), made the best of a limited-energy, semi-grumpy day.

                                                                    1. I enjoy cooking in general, but, it's clear that I'm stressed out, etc. if I'm making pico de gallo. The dicing calms me down and gives me something to focus on for a bit. It's very therapeutic for me.

                                                                      1. I guess it depends on just how down I am. I find cooking and shopping for ingredients very therapeutic. I also find exploring new restaurants and take-out places equally therapeutic (so long as they're within our budget). I do get fast food on occasion (earlier this week I got the Lenten special 2 for 3 dollar filet-o-fish sandwiches at McDonald;s for example) but I don't really feel them as a "comfort food" because they weren't everyday eating for us growing up.

                                                                        If you're talking heavy duty suicidal depression food doesn't work any better than any other physical pleasure, at least it never did for me. Luckily it's been decades since I suffered through that.