How to overcome cooking

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“Do you like to cook?” When I’ve been asked this question in the past, I’ve always responded with some form of enthusiasm (“Of course!”) or scoffed in the affirmative (“Duh”) depending on my penchant for sarcasm at the moment. But recently, the question has given me pause — and I’m not alone. “I’ve based a significant part of my life and personality on answering that question yes,” cookbook author Ella Risbridger told me on a Zoom call. “But no, don’t make me cook.” Washington Post readers have shared similar sentiments, saying they’re torn, uninspired, and missing mojo in the kitchen even though they once loved it.

Part of it is because people have been forced into the kitchen more than normal these past couple of years. “When you tell someone you have to do anything, it makes it less fun,” Risbridger says. Additionally, society is undergoing a mental health crisis caused by all the stress-inducing events we endure, including global health emergencies, inflation and economic uncertainty, racial injustice, and the fight for bodily autonomy, to name just a few. .

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For baker and licensed therapist Jack Hazan, finishing his upcoming cookbook, “Mind Over Batter,” caused a recent bout of burnout. “It was caused by pressure, by uncertainty, by monotony and by a sense of insecurity in what I was doing,” he says.

If any of these feelings sound familiar, here are some strategies to rekindle your love affair with the kitchen.

“For me, baking is a relationship, and I almost got divorced,” Hazan says. “Desire in long-term relationships doesn’t just fall from the sky, right? You have to reinvent yourself and try new things.” One way he did this was buying new baking tools. If you’re on a budget, maybe hold off on buying a basic mixer, but instead look for fun spoons and spatulas that beg to be used.

Or maybe it’s decision fatigue that’s worn you down. The Eat Voraciously newsletter tells you what to eat for dinner four nights a week, along with ideas for substitutions based on your preferences and what’s in your pantry. Cookbook Roulette — where you grab a cookbook from your shelf, open to a random page, and cook whatever dish is in front of you (feel free to go forward or back a page for some flexibility) — is an easy way to let the dinner on the winds of fate. And if you want the added benefit of not having to shop, meal kit delivery services are a great option.

Find new sources of inspiration

“When you’re in failure, it’s very important to find new inspiration, to find new ideas,” Risbridger says. It’s all about looking for something that excites you. It could be completely new dishes or simply ingredients you’ve never cooked with or seen before. “Buy cookbooks from people you don’t know,” she says, and if you don’t want to buy new cookbooks, turn to the internet or social media for free ideas. One of her favorite sources of inspiration is going to markets filled with ingredients she knows nothing about. (“In my case, it tends to be the Polish supermarket.”) You can then ask people in the store or in your networks what to do with them, which could lead to a delicious recipe you haven’t tried. never before. as “a really nice conversation with a stranger,” he says. “Then you have that spark of human connection that makes it exciting to try.”

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“A really easy place to get into a slump is when you’re like, I don’t have anyone to cook for. No one will even notice if I eat bread,” Risbridger says. Her last cookbook, The Year of Miracles, was intended to be about cooking for others, but then turned into “this book about having none of that and trying to think of a reason to cook anyway else’ because of his writing. (2020).

Now that we’re not under such strict restrictions, invite people over for dinner—depending on your comfort level—just as your guests or to prepare the meal with you. When “you have two people in a kitchen, you feel connected,” says Hazan, who offers baking therapy as a form of therapy for his patients. (Alternatively, you could do a meal exchange to practice social distancing.)

Another option is to turn to family recipes. For Hazan, he began to explore his grandmother recipes for Syrian pastries she had never baked before. “When I got into a whole different way of thinking, it wasn’t just exciting, it was something that fed my soul, because it was personal to me,” says Hazan. “I felt connected to what I was doing, which allowed the joy to come out.”

If you don’t have access to your own family recipes, ask for those of other people in your life who care about you. “Even when I’m physically alone, it’s a great way to feel connected,” says Risbridge.

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“Don’t go it alone,” says Hazan. Reach out to friends or join virtual communities that can provide support, which Hazan credits with helping him overcome his withering. “There are so many other people going through what you are going through. And it might not be there now, but it was there before.” While he acknowledges the reluctance some may feel about the idea of ​​reaching out “because they don’t want to burden people,” Hazan encourages you to do it anyway, because that hesitation is often unfounded.

“Often, cooking can feel quite isolating and quite desperate and like you’re stuck. And I think that loneliness is perpetuated,” Risbridger says. “Approaching people and talking to people about what excites them about food is a really cool way to shake yourself up and get some perspective and feel human.”

“I don’t make guarantees, but I will guarantee that if at some point in your life, you really enjoyed baking or cooking, and right now you don’t, give it space to come back to you, and it will,” Hazan says, quoting author Anne Lamott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Of course, you still need to feed yourself while you wait for the joy to return — but that doesn’t mean those meals to pass the time have to be boring. “Fill your fridge with things you’re excited to eat, and they could jazz up a bowl of rice,” Risbridger says. Some of her favorites include frozen noodles (“The sweetest food you can have. It’s so little luxury, little bundles of nice.”), sauerkraut, kimchi, and eggs (“Egg in anything, and you’re like, oh, wow, what a meal.”).

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While you wait, try not to agonize too much about your lost love of cooking. “Take the pressure off,” he says. “If you’re a person who loved to cook before, you’ll get an idea that will send you back to the kitchen at some point. You’ll see a recipe that makes you think, “I’ve got to make that.” “

How do you overcome cooking and reclaim the joy in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.

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