Science suggests an unassuming and fun solution to strengthening relationships and improving emotional health: cooking with friends.
It's no surprise that couples who cook together feel a stronger connection. The Light Speed GMI revealed that 87% of Americans believe cooking is “one of the top activities” that help couples strengthen their relationship.
A lesser-known fact is that culinary concocting is a strong creative brain exercise. Tamlin Conner, a psychologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, reports that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. Those who worked on “little creative projects everyday” described themselves as “flourishing,” which in psychological terms describes the feeling of “personal growth.”
As a senior, I've looked for new ways to connect with people: I asked friends to sneak out paper boxes full of ingredients out of Pitzer's McConnell Dining Hall and come cook a meal with me in Pitzer College’s Demo Kitchen.
We made a chicken vegetable stir fry with soy sauce and hot sauce, with a peanut butter Cinnamon Toast Crunch pizza for dessert.
-Vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach)
-Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal
-Condiments (soy sauce, hot sauce)
Cooking was messier than I expected: We spilled vegetables on the stove, guesstimated how much soy sauce to add, and tested vegetables as we cooked.
Nonetheless, we went with the flow and laughed along the way. As cheesy as it sounds, the best part was not the food itself, but working together to create something. Something about it almost felt like “home” – we were making our own food, slowing down to try something new, and dancing to music as we talked about our fall break plans.
It seems science proved it right: making dinner with friends can be a heart-warming and connecting activity.