Becky’s Mindful Kitchen provides instruction for quarantine cooking

Becky’s Mindful Kitchen owner Becky Schmooke helps people to use substitutes to get rid of the expectations of processed food flavors through online cooking courses.


Jake Maish

The entrance gate for the path leading to Becky’s Mindful Kitchen, located one floor below the main level in a family residence, is seen on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in Solon, IA.

Ning Guo, News Reporter

Becky Schmooke, owner of Becky’s Mindful Kitchen, believes the best way to learn how to cook is to be creative under the guidance of recipes. Her culinary school in Johnson County has begun to cater to the surge of people cooking more at home during the pandemic.

The school started broadcasting its courses live on Facebook in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting social distancing guidelines. In the past five months, Schmooke has offered hundreds of free online cooking classes, and at one point even made them twice a day.

Schmooke’s classes are part of a nationwide trend of people cooking more while stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic. A recent study from the public relations firm Hunter found that 54 percent of people are cooking more now than they were before the pandemic began.

Schmooke said many people don’t cook because they don’t have the confidence to explore.

“If the recipe called for, let’s say, something simple like cocoa powder and you don’t have cocoa powder — you know, there’s other ways to work around that,” Schmooke said.

For Shuhong Jin, a UI student, cooking is a way to kill time while staying at home.

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“Cooking by myself feels rewarding, and it’s healthier than delivery or fast food,” Jin said.

Schmooke said she wants people to realize that processed food is a product of a lot of money spent on science and such flavors can’t be replicated at home.

“You can’t necessarily make it taste as good as an Oreo from a package,” she said, “because they have made it so perfect in our mouth.”

People need to lose that expectation, start using alternative spices, and recognize their flavor in food, Schmooke said.

Kyle Votroubek, a counselor at the University of Iowa Counseling Service, said healthy food can improve one’s physical and mental health.

“People find fulfillment in meeting challenges,” Votroubek said. “That’s a really good thing about starting a new hobby like cooking or exercising. That’s a good segue into regulating this anxiety or some depressive symptoms from being isolated.”

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Votroubek said many people had lost their good pace of life, or everything that they had expected has canceled, and that would make people restless.

“This isn’t a health situation for most people, and this is really tough and really difficult.” Votroubek said. “It’s uncharted territory, like nobody in our generation has had to deal with a pandemic before.”

He encourages people to have goals for their daily lives, simple as to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

“My hope is that people give themselves some grace in dealing with this and don’t be too hard on themselves,” Votroubek said. “And that they focus on what they can do, as opposed to what they can’t do.”

Schmooke said her suggestions for beginners in the kitchen are to measure flour correctly by using a measuring cup and be careful not to keep recipes near the stove — she teaches safety a lot.

Schmooke added that most people are reluctant to take the time to read through a recipe’s instructions.

“Starting simple is a good thing to do,” she said. “People like to dive headfirst into really complicated things and then give up.”