Confession time: Raise your hand if you’re someone who voluminously consumes food-related media to the degree that you would describe yourself as an avid home cook, sometimes forgetting that all those pairs of hands in the how-to videos aren’t your own. Now, keep them raised if a time lapse video of the actual activity in your kitchen over the last year would reveal little more than the occasional scrambled egg or boiled water.
I see you. I see all of you. Because I am you.
We have the best of intentions, you and me, bookmarking recipes, imagining dreamy days spent wandering through farmers markets, and impulse-buying cookware that we are sure to put to enthusiastic and immediate use. Instead we remember we don’t have a dishwasher and order Seamless instead, try to forget the bodily harm sustained during our last Trader Joe’s run for frozen burritos, and stash the most recent purchase (still in box) on the last bit of shelf space ahead of the second-most-recent purchase, certain to be unused before the next purchase arrives.
Rather than begin 2018 with a generic set of resolutions destined to fail by the time the Super Bowl comes around, why not simply commit to spending more time in the kitchen becoming the person you already believe you are? In the spirit of being specific for the possibility of actually achieving resolution, why not try any or all of the following toward a more authentic, kitchen-centric existence this year:
Do Your Dishes
Like, seriously. I said these were cooking resolutions, and this is not some bait and switch. Without even having to see your kitchen, I can confidently attest that the number one obstacle standing between you and your glorious cooking future is not your single square foot of kitchen counter space, but the pile of dishes that awaits you before you can dive into your next project. So, do your dishes. Then get into the habit of doing them as soon as you finish your next recipe so that when moxie strikes you can begin with a ready kitchen and not run out of steam before you even get started. Now that we have that out of the way…
Respect Your Gadgets
Whether it’s something as humble as a waffle iron or as ambitious as a countertop deep fryer, you definitely are hoarding something (or many things) that you have so totally been meaning to use, but so totally haven’t. You don’t need to pull everything out of the pantry at once, but choose your weapon, give yourself a deadline, and go for it. Then try to give yourself another deadline to justify keeping it out rather than putting it back on the shelf, and before you know it the thing will have become worth its expense.
Wanting to try a new product or process is a great impetus for getting cooking, but you don’t need to aim huge in order to find inspiration. Like, “it is Jan. 2 and I am absolutely breaking down this side of beef and making Beef Wellington. For lunch.” Easy, killer. Why not start with the produce aisle and seek out kohlrabi, oyster mushrooms, or chervil? Or try the spice rack and see what you can get up to with herbes de Provence, ras el hanout, or garam masala? Big inspiration can come in small packages.
No matter where you live, I would bet your local community college, gourmet market, or main street bakery has a cooking class you can take. Whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner in need of basic knife skills, or a practiced baker looking to get into wedding cake decorating, investing in some professional coaching and spending an evening among other aficionados can invigorate your own ongoing motivation.
Challenge. Go to your social media forum of choice, or wherever you are likely to save online recipes and videos. Ask the person closest to you for a single digit number. Count down that many entries in your saved tab. Boom. This is what you’re having for dinner tonight. No, I don’t care if it’s for Jalapeno-Cheese Corn Dogs.Why else would you be saving all of these? Now let’s plan to play this little game, say, every month or so until you’ve worked through a few recipes.
If you live in a continental climate you may be noticing that the fruits and vegetables available right about now are better-traveled than yourself of late in order to have made it to your local market. So what’s an occasionally determined locavore to do? It’s not too early to start making a plan for the abundance of summer produce. So let’s circle a few dates in the calendar now, and meanwhile brush up on methods of freezing, canning, and pickling so come next winter we can marvel at our colorful and locally stocked pantry.
Myself, the Conqueror
We all have that one culinary thing that undoes us. For me it is pie crust, which I can’t seem to do without copious swearing. My dreams of pastry designs to rival the taut precision of M.C. Escher paintings emerge from the oven like droopy swatches from Salvador Dali’s discard pile. For you it might be unevenly cooked omelettes, or cakes that resemble famously leaning landmarks, or steaks that always come off the grill having rounded the corner on medium well. Whatever it is, I say we take it head on this year, regularly subjecting ourselves to the unavoidable angst with as much alternate nostril breathing as is necessary, until just maybe, we’ve practiced enough so that the thing is no longer our undoing.
Rise to the Occasion
You really should make bread from scratch this year. At least one loaf. Nothing crazy. Not the kind of operation that might cause you to start referring to your own micro-kitchen as “the hearth.” Just begin with a simple loaf, with care and patience taken at all steps, whose aroma makes you feel as though you have created the very concept of nourishment itself. Maybe serve it up sliced alongside a crock of chili or mushroom barley soup, and it will be the greatest thing since…well, since sliced bread.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.