How to Get Inspired to Cook and Create
We’ve talked about how to think about food differently, how to live your values through food, and, more immediately, practical tips like how to stock your pantry but what happens when you have started thinking about food differently but it still feels like a chore somedays? What can you do to get inspired to cook and create?
For me, cooking is now as natural a habit as it is to brush my teeth or make the bed. But it wasn’t always so. For years I relied on eating out and ramen noodles to sustain me. However, once I committed to saving money and cooking at home, it was much easier to make it a habit. After that initial commitment, though it is easier, you may still have days where it feels like a chore.
Today was one of those days for me. I woke up later than usual, exhausted and puffy-eyed. And I had already agreed to make my favorite meal Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, creamed collard greens, and whole roasted mushrooms for lunch for my husband and I, before he went into work. I wanted to crawl back into bed and tell him that I wasn’t making it today, but then I remembered how excited I was when he suggested it, and how nice it is to spend time with him in the middle of the day. Instead of peeling and dicing the potatoes to be boiled and slicing the mushrooms to be sautéed, I decided on leaving them both whole to reduce the amount of work I had.
I boiled the potatoes whole in the pot with the skin on and decided to bake the mushrooms whole as well. While the potatoes and mushrooms were cooking, I stewed the collard greens down in a pan on low heat, and then focused on cutting and breading steak to be pan-fried.
It was delicious and worth it. Sometimes you need to cook with the end goal – connection – in mind.
Today, I didn’t feel inspired to cook. I wasn’t excited to make this elaborate meal but I found my reason for doing so: pleasing my husband, and thereby myself, by remaining committed to a mini-date that we set for ourselves.
Do you need inspiration every day to make delicious meals? No, but it sure is nice to be excited and have cooking not feel like a chore. Here are my 5 tips to get inspired to cook and create.
5 tips to get inspired to cook and create
- Step away from the kitchen
The most important first step to take is out of the kitchen. Give yourself the space and time to order takeout or buy a supermarket pizza and bake it in the oven for dinner. Sometimes you just need a break. Know that you can always come back to it in a couple days. If stepping out of the kitchen doesn’t work for you, reduce the amount of meals you’re cooking per day. Eat cereal for breakfast and a cheese plate for dinner. Choose quick, cold meals that don’t need to be cooked.
- Indulge in a TV show or Netflix series
There are so many well-produced series about food out there. When I’m in the mood for something exciting and thrilling, I watch a cooking competition show like Chopped, The Final Table, Zumbos Just Desserts, or the Great British Bake Off. In the mood for something profound, beautiful and inspiring? Check out the docu-series Chef’s Table, where they travel around the world interviewing famous chefs about their struggles, failures, and big successes. For something a bit more lighthearted but still drool-worthy, try Somebody Feed Phil or Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown or No Reservations.
After watching these shows, I’m always ready to get back into the kitchen. One episode of Somebody Feed Phil made me crave canned fish, which I had previously only seldom enjoyed.
- Read a book/short story/blog post
If you don’t feel like watching tv, try reading. If cookbooks are your thing, crack one open, make a tea or coffee, and enjoy yourself. I like reading chef’s memoirs and food essays. My all-time favourite memoir is called The Measure of My Powers by Jackie Kai Ellis. The way she describes reclaiming her power through baked goods and how she talks about food makes me smile and feel intense waves of joy for her and for myself. I can also share in the pleasure of creating and sharing a good meal with those closest to me. Or you can indulge in something a bit more esoteric, like How to Taste by Becky Selengut, Sweetness And Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney W. Mintz, or The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu by Dan Jurafsky.
- Listen to a podcast
If you have tried the first three steps and are ready to get back into the kitchen, congratulations! Another fun way to get inspired to cook is to listen to a podcast while you’re cooking. It doesn’t have to be about food but bonus points if it is! I’ve recently enjoyed A Hungry Society by The Heritage Radio Network, that is an interview style show, where the host talks with chefs, catering company owners, writers, etc about all aspects food media. It’s an interesting podcast that will help you broaden the way you think about food and its importance in your daily life.
- Try new ingredients
Trying new ingredients is a good way to get inspired to cook again but I would advise to not make this your first priority. Sometimes you just need to step away, watch other people love food and cooking, before you feel good enough to go back into the kitchen. You don’t want to pick up something new at the grocery store hoping it will help inspire you, only for it to sit in your fridge until it has gone bad.
With that being said, once you feel ready to try again, pick up a new vegetable that has a longer shelf life like a new type of squash or something hardy like a rutabaga. In case your newfound inspiration fades when you get back home, your new ingredient won’t go bad quickly and can last a week or two before it needs to be used.
Enough time for you to binge watch a couple cooking shows or devour a food memoir or cookbook.