Cooking is many different things to many different people. It’s a job, a career, a hobby, a passion, a chore, a fear, a joke. Some people will vacillate through those viewpoints throughout their entire lives. Some may play hot/cold with cooking on any given week.
Only recently has my love of cooking begin to, dare I say, waver. I grew up watching cooking shows and preparing meals for/with my family. I went away to college and turned this hobby into a platform. While at school, I luxuriated in slow walks through the grocery store, crafting a cart that would make Giada proud. Then, I eagerly drove home to sort through my bounty for future recipe development –> prep –> cook –> photograph –> EAT –> blog. Rinse and repeat.
These days, life is different. I’m a working woman, a young professional, and an occasional desk jockey! I go to work, workout (fingers crossed), finally thinking about how I’m going to scrape dinner together as I’m stuck in traffic, stomach growling. My empty fridge bailout plan usually means that I go back to work to grab a meal off the shelf, or pile $20 of salad into a Whole Foods compostable container. Might as well toss my wallet into the compost, too.
In other words, I need a cooking renaissance. In other words, I need to step my game up as a dietitian, eater, and food blogger. In other words, this post is as much for me as it is for you.
- Get comfy. Your kitchen isn’t a Michelin Star restaurant. There are no health code inspectors around. Before you enter the ring (i.e. the kitchen), put on a comfortable outfit that lets you move n’ groove from fridge to pantry to stove to oven.
- Start (and finish) with a clean kitchen. Cooking is so much less frenzied when it happens on a clear, clean counter. And help yourself not resent the process/yourself by putting all of your ingredients away, placing dirty dishes in the machine, and wiping down your counters when all is said and done.
- Cook food you like. Listen, if you’re going to go through with this whole thing, you might as well set out to prepare something you actually like to eat. If you don’t like kale salad, don’t waste your time making a kale salad.
- Mise en place. This is a French term that means “putting in place.” Real life chefs will tell you to do this to an extreme, cutting and measuring all of your ingredients before you begin combining them. My version if mise en place is to simply get everything out of the fridge/freezer/pantry before I begin prepping and cooking. It helps me trip over myself less, which helps me enjoy cooking more.
- Use your recipe as a guide. If something seems off with a recipe, it probably is, at least to you. Tasting and eating is a highly subjective experience, so trust your gut (har har) and consider your recipe a cooking spirit guide, not Bible.
- Better yet, forget the recipe. If you’re comfortable enough in the kitchen (and following tip number 3), unshackle yourself from the recipe! Be free! Just cook!
- Don’t cook alone. Use the buddy system and recruit a sous chef. They’re mostly there for social support, but can also help you chop onions or put out a grease fire.
- Or do. I’m actually a crazy Type A control freak in the kitchen (who’da thunk it?!) so I prefer to fly solo. My one woman kitchen show is often highly therapeutic for me.
- Have music on or a TV show playing in the background. Preferably something with a culinary theme. Look at the flicka da wris.