Cooking helped me find my chill

"Cooking a proper meal for myself is something I don’t intend to stop doing in a hurry. And who knows, maybe I’ll invite someone over for dinner too. As long as they remember to compliment my crockery."

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions or their various permutations such as Dry January or the increasingly ubiquitous Veganuary. Dousing out the final embers of joy from winter seems like a cruel practice best left to those with more willpower and fewer fun mates than me. However, I did make one conscious decision as the clock rang midnight on December 31, 2017 – well, maybe it was when I woke up at around 2pm on January 1, 2018 – and that was to start cooking more. This wasn’t so I could host more dinner parties and show off my impressive collection of vintage crockery collected from the finest car boot sales within the M25, but a purely selfish act. Too long had I relied on reduced-to-clear supermarket ready meals, the gourmet delicacy that is mushed up tinned sardines on toast or a quickly scarfed sandwich between the office and a gig. I was now to channel my inner Nigella and start cooking up a storm each evening, whether I could be arsed to or not. So, armed with a couple of shiny new cookbooks – Meera Sodha’s Fresh India being a particular saviour – and an almost fully stocked spice rack, I began.

And you know what? Turns out cooking a decent meal for yourself doesn’t just result in the creation of a delicious dinner and, unless you’re exceptionally greedy like me, leftovers to take into work the next day for lunch, saving you yet another overpriced visit to Pret. There’s a whole plethora of benefits to getting your hands – and jeans, floor and occasionally walls – dirty in the kitchen, including a sense of wellbeing I used to think was only possible after two glasses of wine and a long, hard look at a picture of Bruce Springsteen c. 1984.

The Great British Bake Off renegade Ruby Tandoh today publishes a book called Eat Up, a full-bodied tribute not just to the joy of eating – the things she has to say about Creme Eggs will make you blush – but to the enormous amount of satisfaction gained from cooking. It’s a much- needed love letter to what we put in our bellies at a time when so much of what we – and especially women – eat is judged and mediated by social media, magazines and particularly annoying people.

Cooking a proper meal for myself is something I don’t intend to stop doing in a hurry. And who knows, maybe I’ll invite someone over for dinner too. As long as they remember to compliment my crockery.