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CFHS blog – Bad mood soup: a personal take on how you feel affects what you cook

‘… and maybe that dish isn’t identical the next time you make it, as you use your emotions when you cook ...’
Neil Forbes, Chef (from twitter)

One of my friends thinks I’m a great cook. I’m not really – average at best. I can do the basics – and I have perfected things that I particularly like to suit my own taste (my lentil soup is legend).

Living on my own I don’t always have the motivation to cook for myself. I used to eat a lot of ready meals and I still eat a lot of baked potatoes, but these days I try a bit harder and see what I can make from what I have in the fridge and cupboards more. It doesn’t always work out as planned and I’m prone to spillages, knife slippages and the occasional tea towel fire. But if I’m in the right mood, that’s all fine.

I’ve learned not to cook in a bad mood .. on those days when you feel that you have to make something; the ingredients are there and need to be used, but you really don’t feel like it. That soup tastes bitter and a little bit angry. Better to try again another day and have some good mood soup on standby in the freezer.

So back to my friend who loves my cooking. I really enjoy cooking for friends and family, planning the menu, choosing the right ingredients and doing the shopping. And then the actual cooking, getting into the zone while looking forward to the chat and the simple pleasure of feeding people. These are the meals that turn out the best.

‘I think for a lot of people .. when you have more people, you make more effort because it’s about making people happy, and you want people to enjoy it.’
Young mum from Borders Healthy Living Network  (speaking on a video report on community-led research into food security and insecurity, available at

Anyone who knows me well will have heard me say that my mum was a great baker. This is not so much a proud boast as an emotional outburst. We never talked about it, but I like to think that this was something that she did for herself and not just for us. That when the chores were done, she took time for herself to do something she loved, thinking fondly of her absent schoolgirls, and that was what made her scones rise and her cakes sweet.

Bringing up four children on benefits and latterly a cleaner’s wage, mealtimes could be a bit different. The joy of cooking with a free choice of ingredients and not worrying about the cost was not always an option then. When she was working in the evening, us older girls were in charge of dinner. We ate more than a few burnt chips (bad mood chips) and crispy pancakes. But that’s when we also learned our basics.

Cooking for one may sometimes be enjoyable or may sometimes be a chore, but cooking for others should hopefully feel and taste like joy.

Alice Baird



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