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Saturday, May 28, 2022

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Have More Fun in the Kitchen!

If the pandemic has taught us anything about cooking, it’s that it never stops! During quarantine, everyone embraced baking and home cooking. But as the everyone-at-home reality dragged on, the novelty of preparing constant meals wore away and felt more like a chore. Now, as many folks are still avoiding crowded restaurants as well as dealing with supply chain issues and inflation prices, the notion of cooking dinner every night can be more of a drag than a source of inspiration.

But cooking ennui doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to last! Whether you abhor cooking or you’re just in a rut, the cure is about finding ways to have more fun in the kitchen and take ownership over the process. Here are some ways to relax and enjoy yourself:

  • Engage All Your Senses: Light a candle, put on some music, and be mindful of the smells, sounds, and textures of everything in the kitchen. Music is a great way to decompress from a busy day, but it can also enliven the mood and even coordinate with the food! Cooking is a sensory experience, and being aware of that can redirect your focus on the enjoyment of food. Practicing mindfulness with regard to cooking will also help your understanding of ingredients, seasoning, and flavors, which ultimately improves your cooking skills.
  • Riff on Recipes: There is typically no need to follow most recipes to a T. Playing around with recipes and allowing yourself a little bit of freedom to experiment and riff on a concept will get your creative juices flowing while you gain some more self-confidence.
  • Match Cooking to Your Personality: Take some time to reflect on what aspects of your personality are essential to respect when it comes to spending time in the kitchen, and coordinate your cooking time to reflect these. Maybe starting a meal in the slow cooker in the morning matches your planner-personality, or perhaps winging something at the last minute scratches that spontaneity-craving itch.
  • Play with Your Food: We’ve come a long way; a family meal no longer has to be a meat, a starch, and a boring veggie on the side. There are so many ways to get creative in the kitchen and make “theme nights” interesting. You can challenge yourself to a monochromatic night where everything on the plate has to be only one color. You can serve a meal with nothing but chopsticks and see who does best. Challenge your family to hold their fork in their non-dominant hand. Turn the countertop into a sub station and have everyone make their own giant sandwiches. Learn how to sculpt an avocado rose or fashion meatloaf and mashed potatoes to look like deceptively-sweet cupcakes. There are endless possibilities for play and lightheartedness!

 Finally, make sure to connect cooking and food to your soul, otherwise, it’s only about the physical sustenance and not the spiritual kind. You can dedicate meals to certain individuals or memories that are dear to you. Attempt to replicate that delicious macaroni and cheese that warmed you up after skiing when you were a new couple. Revisit family vacations by planning the entire meal around the culture or environment that conjure the best memories of those places. Honor old family traditions or start new ones at the stovetop and encourage your kids to think of some too. Cooking, feeding your loved ones, and enjoying food are all gifts, and even though it may get tedious sometimes, finding new and fun ways to enjoy the process makes it all the more meaningful!

Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey is the writer/editor of the Education and Infant & Pregnancy e-newsletters for Fredericksburg Parent and Family. She also writes the monthly Practical Pantry column, sharing her recipes and tips on being a home cook, grocery shopping, and smart meal planning. Debra is the proud mother of an almost-teenage son. When she's not writing, cooking, or parenting, Debra enjoys working out, yoga, running, hiking, traveling, and reading.

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