As an expat family, we don’t quite fit in anywhere. We aren’t up with the great sports stars or following games, fixtures and teams with the devotion that a resident in Australia or the USA might. We are aware of trends, and sit on the periphery of Chinese or Korean music or tik tok dances or viral videos. We tend to check out the best books on Amazon or Booktopia in Teen Fiction or get sent suggested reading from Goodreads or friends. But all this has changed in the last few years, as we have been obsessed with MasterChef Australia.
An obsession is a Mental Health state that leaves the person who is obsessed in a state of agitation, almost like an addict, needing a fix. We have watched our son become a Wikipedia of MasterChef Australia – if you want to be reminded of a contestant or seasonal finale, you just have to mention and the answer will be graciously shared.
Dinner time vocabulary has come to include choice phrases such as “there seems to be an Element missing or perhaps a nod to the amazingly cooked meal about importance of not eating raw chicken or not having seasoned the salad properly. All of these comments are said with a whiff of professional chef or food critic – without them having ever tasted a dish from a MasterChef contestant or know what the difference is between well seasoned or not salads.
Learning to cook in our house has not started with boiling eggs or making toast – but our children bring in recipes from MasterChef contestants or those who have gone on to run their own restaurants, businesses with lavish ingredients, use of every bowl we own and hours to make all 27 elements. Sometimes they salivate over creations that Master Chefs have shared on the program that contestants are trying to recreate to stop being eliminated, and I have to remind them that we don’t own a Nitrogen producing piece of equipment nor speciality moulds or a place to temper chocolate. Usually this reminder is not met with kind expression – more the eye rolling type.
Their obsession, although challenging and at times amusing, has lead me to think more about my own obsession to training and movement and what the underlying principles are that bolster my own addiction. I wonder how much of this is the same joy and love that I see in my children’s faces as they learn about food and the happiness that it brings these TV chefs but I am also rudely aware of the darkness that lurks just below the surface – the guilt, shame, body awareness self-talk as well as the ruthless self esteem that goes hand in hand with not training or achieving goals set. There is a fine balance to this psychological state of mind when we are obsessed with something or are driven to it – and it is important to acknowledge those feelings and states of mind so that they are not forgotten or lie dormant.
I do roll my eyes as the new season of MasterChef has exploded onto our television set but I also can see that it is a wonderful thing to be obsessed with – the learning about food, Australian food culture, the passion to be better at something and the learning through failure are all wonderful things for my own children to learn from – as long as they also are critical content consumers – advertising, TV-a-fying of the show and the drama and the motivational reasons are all valid talking points for our family. In the same way that training, movement, goals and racing are all important points to talk with over time, with my children so that they are aware of the not-so-great feelings and mental health that can go hand-in-hand with movement too and be aware of themselves and mindful of their teammates.
Obsessions can sound dangerous, but I think that they are double edged. We just need to make sure we are thinking and learning about both sides.