I’ve had some great conversations with my clients since my last post on How to Enjoy Cooking. They’ve brought up some barriers to cooking that weren’t addressed in Part 1 and I’m excited to share them here with you. Overall, it seems that many people don’t feel capable in the kitchen and either question their cooking skills or their ability to put together a balanced and nutritious meal. These feelings keep us from enjoying ourselves and from being proud of what we create. The truth is, it doesn’t take an extensive education in order to whip up an Instagrammable meal. You’d be surprised by how far you can get with a sharp knife, an organized process, and a colorful garnish.
5 (MORE) WAYS TO MAKE COOKING STRESS-FREE
Make it a social activity
Identifying more strongly with introversion, I’ve never considered cooking to be a lonely experience. However, many of my more extraverted clients associate the kitchen with boredom or isolation. If this is you, consider making cooking a social activity: schedule a weekly “cooking date” with a friend where you batch cook together for the week ahead, have a family member pull up a stool at the counter while you cook, or Skype a friend that loves to chat. If there’s no one around to keep you company, listen to an audiobook, podcast, or even watch a TV show (one that won’t distract you too much from the task at hand) to keep your mind stimulated.
Own a sharp knife and know how to use it
You don’t need a lot of fancy tools to be a good cook, but a sharp knife is essential. Trying to chop with a dull knife can slow the process and make you feel inept. A sharp knife does wonders for your confidence in the kitchen and makes the chopping process go much faster. The right knife will be unique to you, so if you’re in the market for a new tool, visit a cooking store that demos knives to find one with just the right grip and weight for your hand. Bonus points if you take a knife skills class at your local cooking school to learn to chop like a pro.
Try new recipes, or don’t
This one’s up to you. Some people thrive on change and would love to be able to cook a new dish every night of the week. If this is you, follow cooking blogs, pin recipes on Pinterest, and subscribe to cooking magazines in order to maintain a steady stream of inspiration. Instead of relying on leftovers, cook an extra serving of protein or grain one day so you can repurpose it in a new recipe the next and cut down on your cooking time.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people feel overwhelmed by so many new ideas and need permission to stick with some old standbys. Neither tendency is right or wrong, but it’s important to know if this issue is stressing you out and keeping you from cooking at all.
Practice mise en place
I’ve written more extensively on this here, and I think it’s important enough to repeat again. The practice of preparing all your ingredients before beginning to cook anything is the key to a smooth, stress-free process and will teach you how to become a better cook over time. If you’re a visual learner, the habit of laying out all your ingredients and tools will help you recognize patterns and techniques that you’ll be able to replicate in the future without having to refer to a recipe.
Pay attention to presentation
We eat first with our eyes, so how the food appears on the plate can be just as important as getting the spices right. A study done by Charles Spence at Oxford University found that thoughtful presentation meant diners found the food more flavorful. But you don’t need a closet full of food styling props in order to create an appealing dish. Here are some simple techniques to pretty your plate:
- Use a nice plate – sometimes a simple, white plate is best
- Wipe the edge of the plate or bowl clean of any smears or drips
- Garnish with herbs or sauce – a bright or contrasting color will be most attractive; think parsley, cilantro, hot sauce, pistachios, white or black sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds, wedge of lemon, etc.
- Pay attention to how things are chopped – cutting a fillet horizontally to show the inner color of the meat or slicing cucumbers thinly to layer on top of a salad can make dishes considerably more appetizing
Have you found any creative ways to overcome your barriers to cooking? I’d love for you to share below or tag your social media post with #parisinutrition!