It seems obvious, right? Yet, so many times we find ourselves cooking while we are angry, sad, full of resentment, or merely obligated. Those things have flavor-not outwardly, I suppose, but the bitterness, the worry, the grief-they are ingested on an energetic level.
I imagine my eaters. How do I feel about them? What is my intention with this mealtime preparation? As a personal chef, I want to nourish the families for whom I cook, I want to expand the palates of their children, and I want to make their lives easier. I am sure you feel the same way about your families and friends.
Are you nervous in the kitchen? Put yourself at ease. Pin a picture of your grandmother or your puppy to the cabinet door. I have a little vision board on the side of my fridge that keeps me on task. Your family, friends, spouse - your eaters - will love you even if you burn something (which I seem to do often, just shave off the black crispy bits and keep going,) your pot over boils, or you accidentally grab the sugar instead of the salt. So relax, and remember how much you care about them.
If you are cooking for one, cook joyfully for oneself! An audience of one is easy to please. It is good practice for when you are cooking for company or a date. (!!) You can indulge a craving or you can use up leftover ingredients. There really is so much freedom. Embrace it.
Is your problem too many leftovers? Bring them downstairs to your doorman working the night shift. You can offer them to a neighbor or drop off lunch to a new Mom. Gifts of food are received twice-once when opened and again when eaten!
Cookbooks, recipes, and food blogs, like this one, are roadmaps with guidelines and a framework for you to follow. They are not meant to intimidate or limit you. You are free to adapt, swap out ingredients, make substitutions to fit your needs. It might not always work out. Try again. Intend for it to be tasty, expect your eaters to be grateful, and be confident that the world will not end and your family won’t starve if you make a mistake. Despite the world of competitive cooking shows (with which I am obsessed!) you will not be CHOPPED or voted off the island if you don’t have dinner on the table by 6pm, if it doesn’t look like the picture from the magazine, or if not everyone has cleaned their plate.
Not everything has to be from scratch! God bless the pioneer women and men for milking the cows, churning the butter, making the jam, grinding the wheat, and baking the bread. There are beautiful, convenient ingredients available at your grocery store. Combine those with some of your homemade elements and it will be the perfect creation.
Show up in your kitchen like you would show up any place that you value-church, work, a friend’s party, or yoga class. BE there. Really be present, even if you feel out of place, hate it, are tired, or don’t feel inspired. Food is really important and needs our attention. Food is medicine. Food is a celebration. It brings people together, it heals, it fuels our bodies.
My refrigerator vision board has a magnet made by one of my favorite artists, Allison Strine. I do a little dance and kinda sing it over and over after I have made something particularly awesome. These pretzels definitely deserved the hat tip. Did they taste as good as they look? Um… not so much. But LOOK at them! They’re beautiful, and the people I made them for slathered those pretzels with butter and mustard and tasted my love for them. Total success!