Anyone who's kneaded a big mass of bread dough knows how therapeutic it can be. Bread dough almost demands to be roughed up, so many of those difficult emotions (stress, anxiety, frustration) can work themselves out in a physical way that, in the end, is quite effective. Plus, you end up with a perky loaf of fresh-baked bread.
The mortar and pestle is another way to work off some frustrations. Pounding and grinding away at a few helpless leaves of basil, filling the kitchen with the pungent scent of raw garlic and bruised herb, the gustatory reward of a bowlful of feisty green sauce when its all over. The experience can be downright cathartic. And tasty.
So, to a point, the kitchen is a rather miraculous therapist's couch where you can work through some thorny emotional states and instead of shelling out your hard earned cash, you end up with a clearer head and tonight's dinner. A rather brilliant arrangement.
But anger, true anger, is another matter. Anger can have an energetic, physical expression that does not do well around hot skillets and sharp knives. The urge to throw, pound, thwack, whack, rip, kick, and the trigger-hair impatience that comes with anger might get a little too dangerous for some of us. (Others, I suspect, may find it kind of exciting. I hope they have good insurance.)
But more important than broken cutlery and bashed up thumbs is what ends up on your plate. After all, who cares if you act like the devil in the kitchen if you produce a dish that tastes like an angel's kiss? But I find, in a Like Water for Chocolate kind of way, that when I cook angry my food really sucks. As an angry cook, I'm impatient and distracted, and my palate goes off. I stop caring about the food and pull all my energy towards my righteous indignation, a hungry, gnashing beast in need constant fuel.
So while angry cooks might (or might not) make good TV, I don't think they make good home cooks. Personally, I suggest avoiding the kitchen at all costs when angry. How about you? What happens when there's a storm in your head and a knife in your hand?
Related: The Comfort Zone
(Image: by Dana Velden of postcard by Faythe Levine)