8 February 2024

Is learning to cook the recipe for a happy, healthy life for older men?

| Sally Hopman
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Men cooking in a kitchen

Men who have never held a spatula in their lives are learning to cook – and improve their quality of life – at Men’s Kitchen, a not-for-profit group launching in Canberra next month. Photo: Supplied.

They are the men of a generation who never had to cook for themselves. It was a different sort of life, when men worked outside the house and women within. A strange concept to many today, but that was just how it was.

With these men now well into their senior years, and many of them experiencing debilitating health and the loss of a partner, there’s a huge gap in their lives.

Enter Men’s Kitchen, a not-for-profit group that has had great success in Sydney teaching older men basic kitchen skills in a social setting – and soon to be launched in Canberra.

For Sam Silver of Braddon, Men’s Kitchen was ideal for someone like her father John, 77.

“He was of that generation that never learned to cook,” she said. “He’s a very sociable fellow, he had a massive social life, but he couldn’t look after himself.”

Since the onset of dementia has limited his involvement in the project, Sam has volunteered her services to help launch Men’s Kitchen in Canberra next month – because she knows how beneficial it will be. A retired public servant, she said she was looking for a project where she could make a difference.

“So I’ve come in on the ground floor of bringing this to Canberra,” she said. “This is so good for people like my Dad who can’t cook – it was just their generation.”

Founder and president of Men’s Kitchen Peter Watson said two key factors in longevity and good health were good nutrition and forging social connections.

“In Canberra, there are over 30,000 men aged 60 or more, and most of these men have had zero experience in the kitchen,” he said. “To this end, Men’s Kitchen is now coming to Canberra, having thrived in Sydney since 2016.”

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He said at each Men’s Kitchen cooking session, up to 10 men could learn cooking skills and make new friends in the process.

“Members choose what they would like to prepare, then under the guidance of two experienced volunteer instructors, pairs of attendees prepare a selected dish. Once the cooking is completed, everyone sits together to enjoy their culinary creations.”

He said retirement for some men involved hobbies like golf, but for others, ” it’s a time when they lose their sense of purpose and miss the interaction with work colleagues. The upside is that their retirement can be used positively to increase their skills and make new mates”.

“What drew me to Men’s Kitchen was the philosophy towards mental health,” Sam Silver said.

Men’s Kitchen even has a recipe book, created by cooking professional Chris Chandler.

“What I have learned over five years with Men’s Kitchen is that the men we teach have a very open palate, which I love,” Chris said. “To this end, the recipes are classic and modern at the same time, from No Waste Pumpkin Soup, Beef and Bacon Pies to Smashed Lemon Cheesecake.”

Man and woman

Sam Silver with her father John. The former public servant has volunteered her time to help get Men’s Kitchen off the ground in Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

Chris said Men’s Kitchen had changed the cooking dynamic between many couples.

“It’s quite interesting. I have men who reveal, ‘I have never been allowed to pass the threshold of the kitchen, and I won’t be allowed in the kitchen when I get home either’. I say to them: ‘Just take it slowly and you will. Just do a little here and there and make sure always to clean up afterwards’.”

Canberra’s Men’s Kitchen will be launched at the Uniting Church, Curtin, on Wednesday 27 March. An army of volunteers is needed to help get the service off the ground – from cooks to accountants, managers to IT experts.

For more information about volunteering at the Men’s Kitchen email [email protected]

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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