Food for the Soul

Cooking has always been a big part of my family: from intricate Sunday night dinners to messy homemade pizzas, I could always count on a bustling kitchen around 5 pm. As I get closer and closer to going off to college and living on my own, I have come to realize the importance of knowing how to cook.


by Mara Callahan, Feature Editor

Disclaimer: Throughout this column, I talk about why I believe cooking is so important, which it is; however, I want to make sure to state that I believe all food—no matter where it comes from or who makes it or how expensive it is—is important. No choice of food used to fuel your body is a bad choice; food is food after all and the whole point of food is to eat it when you’re hungry! All that said, if you want to go out and eat a Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich for lunch, go for it and enjoy every bite without a touch of guilt! Though I love cooking for myself, I also enjoy eating out or eating pre-packaged mac and cheese. The main thing I want people to take away from my column is that I think it is important to know how to cook for yourself while also being okay with eating out on occasions.


Each night before I go to bed, I prep and pack my lunch. I have been doing this since I was in grade school — second grade to be exact. It started with lunchtime staples: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goldfish, apple slices. It wasn’t until my older sister, Emma Kate went pescetarian, meaning she didn’t consume meats other than fish, that I began to broaden my view of cooking. Chickpeas were my gateway drug into more unique and advanced recipes. One morning I woke up to my Pinterest for-you page being overtaken by recipes for chickpea curry, chickpea vegetable nuggets, chickpea salad sandwiches—and my ultimate favorite—chickpea samosa-inspired burritos. Once I began experimenting with different types of foods, I began to appreciate the spices and recipes of different cultures. I began to understand not only the importance of food in a physical sense, but also the emotional meaning behind the enjoyment that comes with nourishing one’s body. It is my belief that everyone should learn how to cook because I am convinced cooking is an imperative skill that drastically improves the quality of your life. Still not convinced you should trade in your pre-packaged lunchable for a home-cooked meal? Here are three reasons why: cost efficiency, nutritious value and joy.

The most surprising factor of properly cooking is its convenience. A bag of potatoes from Aldi can be purchased for less than 60 cents—a steal considering the large pot of gnocchi that can easily be made by adding the right amount of spices to that quarter. According to a study conducted by CreditDonkey, the average American spends about 5% of their total annual income on dining out, which equates to about $262 per month. With these numbers, it can be calculated that by trading your four restaurant meals out for two home-cooked meals, you could save $18 a week. The financial aspect of home cooking or preparing meals thereforedrastically outweighs that of buying prepackaged meals or eating out.

Eating healthy is not equivalent to buying $14 supplementary protein shakes or ginger shots from Whole Foods; eating healthy means eating things that bring you the satisfaction and nourishment required to live your life with a healthy mindset. I genuinely feel better and happier after I’ve eaten a lunch that I made and am excited about. One of the best things about cooking for yourself is that you get to decide what you cook with. You can choose all your favorite foods, and all the delicious spices or textures you want. When you eat out or eat pre-packaged meals, you don’t have as much of a say in which types of nutrients you are consuming. Some days you may be feeling like your body needs more protein, and others you might want more antioxidants. When you optto cook for yourself, you can choose foods that sound satiating and fulfilling for that day, rather than eating the same staple food everyday.

One of the most common things I hear when talking to people about packing their own lunch is that it takes up too much time. Making my lunch the night before school does require a few minutes of my time: however, methodically chopping peppers, tomatoes and onions is the only thing that calms me down enough to allow my mile-a-minute brain time to slow down and rest. The smell of the kitchen never ceases to fill my mind with memories. Thoughts of late night cookies baked with my sister, the mouth-watering scent of enchiladas cooking in the oven while my family watches the Chiefs, and even the less tasty foods such as corn beef and cabbage—a staple at my Grandparents’ house on Saint Patty’s day—fill me with so much joy and happiness. The thoughts and connections that can be shared over a home-cooked meal are unmatched.