Culinary Therapeutics

 

 

It is not easy to establish a rapport with adolescents due to their inherent antiauthoritarian nature. This is especially true for males though the females present their own challenges tending towards mood lability and theatrics. A traditional face to face setting just doesn’t work well although groups do offer more support and encouragement of dialectic exchange.

Some time ago a young man was brought to me by his aunt with depression and suicidal thoughts. Most of the history was provided by her and  my attempts to engage him were met with monosyllabic grunts or silence.

It turns out he was physically abused by a family friend with whom he lived for much of his childhood and early teen years. His mother was stretched with 5 children and he had no adult male supports or role models with which to identify.

In brief the young man suffered PTSD, he was withdrawn and introverted. Because of the former he zoned out a lot, was apathetic and numb. He could not attend school as he could not connect with his peers and was bullied. He experienced intrusive violent thoughts which frightened him and entertained images of pounding some of his tormentors to pulp. This was a distinct possibility due to his size and so he was home schooled. He did have some online peer support but with fellow stoners who lived hours away.

The challenge was how to build a therapeutic alliance. To do that with teens is to enter a parameter into the therapy. In other words something unorthodox that facilitates a connection. What I found about “Leo” is that he likes to cook, an uncommon hobby for most male teens. Take a human activity and add therapy and you have a parameter: wilderness, play, mindfulness etc. So why not cuisine? We started with a poutine lunch together but at 900 to 1200 cal a meal it wasn’t practical for either of us. So we settled on homemade meals. Even Freud was a fan of therapeutic cooking and his repertoire of traditional recipes included such familiar favourites as his Fettucine Libido, Erogenous Scones and Interpretation of Creams.

What I learned about Leo was that he had a sardonic dry wit and since he used marijuana to subdue his PTSD, he suggested THC brownies of course using cannabis butter to start. I told him it was Christmas time, so maybe shortbread cookies were a better idea- a simple recipe involving a lot of butter, sugar and flour and not much else…..

 

On subsequent visits we tried chocolate chip and apple oatmeal cookies. We tried to stick with food.com recipes because of  their ease of execution. During our cookie phase we discussed identity and vocational plans. We agreed to sublimate his violent tendencies into a sort of socially accepted pursuit. This was made easy by his prior decision to enter the security field. I suggested he study law and justice for a two-year diploma. He agreed but thought he should work as a bouncer first for funds and study martial arts to learn discipline over his aggression. Good plan.

What was interesting was his fascination with (South) Korea. He wanted to learn the language and culture and live and work there. He figured that they needed security workers as most Korean men were half a person shorter than him. I decided not to interpret this as for one thing I had no clue where this notion originated and why wreck it with analytics as long as it was adaptive. He also hoped to find a Korean girlfriend.

Naturally this lead us into a discussion of relationships and sexuality. His views on the subject seemed healthy enough but he wanted my opinions on relational development. To facilitate this discussion and because he wanted to lose weight, we switched our culinary repertoire to casseroles- Italian chicken bake and ground beef casserole but we used shredded cheddar and not processed. Comfort foods for anxiety provoking topics…..

I said I knew nothing about Koreans but I did know something about Chinese culture. The women, even more than the men, were perfectionists, hard-working and scholarly. In any event I said there were universal constants when dealing with women as biology is destiny and that superseded culture.

I told him Freud noted “there is this great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’

Well I told Leo it’s really quite simple: women like clear lines of communication, reliability, honesty, intelligence, a sense of humour and a steady paycheck. Good looks and muscles or penis size were not important.  Never forget anniversaries or birthdays. Finally avoid disputes at all costs and realize that women are always right so why bother with disputation? It did not matter if she was from Korea or Kazahkstan.

He appreciated this advice and the casseroles were a big hit. In a few months he is leaving the area to move  with his mother to a larger centre where he can further his education and secure employment. More importantly he now asked about more advanced recipes and so I  suggested pork medallions in orange cream sauce or lemon chicken- definite therapeutic progress.

This serves to demonstrate the process of therapy : establishing a therapeutic alliance—-> shortbread and chocolate chip cookies
working through issues—–> comfort food casseroles
termination of therapy—–> tequila lime chicken

It has been stated that it is difficult to quantify a positive psychotherapy outcome. I submit that if your client/ patient can prepare Moroccan lemon chicken on a bed of apricot- raisin couscous then a cure has been achieved.

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One Response to “Culinary Therapeutics”

  1. kristina nadreau says:

    I prefer Jung. Most of your remarks about women are correct but I would disagree with your remarks about appearance. I am only attracted to men who are as attractive (or more so) than myself.

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