Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Domestic Arts as a Survival Tool

If you've cooked every day for many years to feed your family, along with perhaps working full-time, and commuting, it's understandable that during retirement you may look forward to eating out several (or all?) days a week, happily giving up most kitchen activities.

Your post-retirement calendar may be full of meeting friends for meals, attending theater, playing golf, volunteering, traveling, etc. These days, there are plenty of very healthy food choices you can find at restaurants almost anywhere you live or visit, including at major airports.

I'd like to suggest, though, that it's a smart aging strategy to develop the habit now of enjoying at least some of the "domestic arts" that you're so eager to give away. 

Why? Because I've observed that people whose lives were "outer-directed" during their active years often experience a loss of daily necessity and meaning when they transition to advanced age. 

Previously, their daily sense of meaning and goals were all accomplished in the world outside the home. Now, the absence of that sense of purpose, status, and value to others can leave them feeling depressed, unfocused and passively depending on family or professional aides, not only for their physical survival, but also for their state of mind.

I've noticed recently how glad I am to enjoy food design as a sort of personal art project, as well as feeling so much healthier when I cook and bake from scratch. 

My crafts business, which gave me (and my hands and eyes) something to do every day for many years, took a nose dive this Fall, due to the increase of online shopping and hot weather late into the holiday gift show months. My sales plummeted, and I had to give up selling at shows and markets. Moreover, my hands have made it clear to me that they need a break from daily crochet. The constant repetitive motion is unsustainable, and I need my hands for the activities of daily life!

Luckily for me, I'd started this blog project, BoosterFoods, over Thanksgiving weekend. Although I hadn't intended on replacing most of my food staples with homemade versions, that's what's happened over the past few months. So, now when I run low on meals or baked goods, I have to cook or bake. I've sort of created a new "job" for myself. 

Another reason why I think it's important to enjoy some domestic arts as long as possible is that they can keep us company when life forces more solitude on us than we want. 

On rainy days, or cold days, or days when my car is in the shop, or when I'm just tired and stuck at home, it's really comforting to pull out a baking pan or a pot and make an energy bar, some soup, icebox jam, or whatever I need to replace in the fridge. The aromas, the textures, the tastes, the satisfaction of creation . . . fill an emotional void that would otherwise make the day feel less fulfilling.

And it's a funny thing, having a nibble of something just out of the oven to offer to a neighbor or a friend--and definitely some little treats to my dog!--can be an unexpected bonus.

Even if you live alone, you can have the fun of making small batches. Divide each batch into one container for the refrigerator and another one for the freezer. 

I know that, as they age, some folks become unable to use their hands, eyes, minds for cooking and baking, due to injury or ill health. But if you start the habit now of making food basics yourself, that may actually help your mind and body stay healthy longer.

Right now, I'm enjoying a bowl of homemade chili that my neighbor brought over yesterday. When she stopped by this morning to borrow my ladder, I gave her a taste of flatbread squares, Apple Raisin Compote, and Caroline's Zucchini Soup, fresh out of the oven and stovetop. Mm, mm, good!

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