Maybe you’re stressed. Maybe you’re working long hours and evenings are the only time you can put up your feet. Maybe you’re unemployed and feeling listless and concerned about your food budget. Maybe you’ve just made one too many meals and you just don’t care anymore. Whatever the case, you’re burned out on cooking.
And you know what? I’m not here to give you handy recipes to get you back in the swing of things. Because I can totally relate. I’m tired of paging through cook books, dreaming up something that isn’t the same mediocre vegetarian corn dog to pop in the oven. A few months ago, we moved into a home that, although double our previous (studio) apartment’s square footage, has a kitchen about half the size. There’s no counter space, one of the burners on the stove won’t light, and because I’m unemployed, I can’t splurge on the kind of organizational bins we need to keep anything organized. In short, my kitchen is making me anxious and I don’t like spending time in it.
Which, you know, is really sad, actually. Because I love(d) to cook. Once upon a time, I felt like cooking was a gift I could give my fledgling little family when I didn’t see much else I had to give: a square meal that nourished the body and pleased the tongue was something I felt proud of. And originality – trying new things, not allowing our dining habits to fall into rut and routine – was part of the gift, and the adventure for me, as a cook.
But lately, I’ve been depressed – in the space, in my unemployment, in the necessity of routine just to get through days laden by a lot of responsibility. And cooking is no longer the joy it once was; our dining habits suffer as a result. (I don’t want to admit how many times Chinese takeout or pizza delivery has stood in for a meal with, you know, food groups. Like, even in the last week, the number is a bit daunting.) So… what to do?
Well, I don’t quite know yet. But I have a few suspicions of what will eventually get me out of my rut. First, I’ll have to get sick of the crap food. Second, I’ll have to spend some time daydreaming. What meals would make me feel spoiled? What about decadent? What meals would make me feel cleansed and glowing? What meals are comforting? What are my favorite dishes from childhood? Holidays? Trying to associate positive emotions with meals and their preparation can help to stop me feeling so gloomy about cooking in general. Third, I think it’s time I re-think my kitchen. There are some things I can’t change about it at all (we are renting, after all), and others that will have to wait to change, due to budget constraints. But I can certainly purge items we don’t use, reorganize the ones we do into systems that work better, and try to make the whole kitchen navigation thing a greater joy, in general.
And finally, I suppose, I can just start doing it again. Stop viewing it as a chore and start viewing it as a dance whose steps I haven’t followed in a while; a tune I haven’t sung in some time; a ritual that’s overdue for practice.