This is the final part in our six-week series on the counterproductive stories we tell ourselves in the kitchen – those hurdles that mess with our mojo and prevent us from enjoying the process of cooking. This week we’re unpacking the story that to nourish and delight our families, we need to cook new and interesting dishes on a regular basis.
In an era of beautifully styled food photos from mummy bloggers and endless recipes pouring into our feeds daily, the household cooks of this generation are under substantial pressure to perform.
I’d hazard a guess that most of us have felt inadequate in this space, at some point. The constant barrage of inspiration often leaves us with the impression that we’re not ticking the long list of boxes required of us in the modern age. Frequently those boxes involve churning out a smorgasbord of new and interesting meals for our families.
And it’s unprecedented. A couple of generations ago, the household cook simply wasn’t expected to take their families on a world culinary tour each week! In most instances, Australian families might have been exposed to Chinese cuisine at a local restaurant, but that was likely the full scope of their culinary awareness. Then it was back to the over-cooked Brussel sprouts and boiled potatoes at home.
In other regions of the world, nothing has changed. The home cooks prepare local regional dishes. The same ones, from the same traditional ingredients, day after day.
Instead, we’re faced with unparalleled access to recipes, information as well as a much broader diversity of exotic ingredients. It’s all there at our fingertips, which convinces us that we need to make use of it!
To add insult to injury, many in our generation didn’t grow up with a learning-by-osmosis style of cooking education because our parents had been sold on the convenience of processed foods and hence, spent the bulk of their time out of the kitchen, unlike our grandmothers.
So, it’s perfectly understandable that there’s a resistance to adopting new recipes and techniques every week. Regardless of ones cooking ability, it requires a lot of additional thinking and energy to do this!
The compulsive creative
There’s another way the ‘I need to cook new and interesting things’ story plays out, however. For some, it stems from a very genuine desire to be creative in the kitchen. If this is you, the question to ask yourself is, does indulging that drive to cook creatively bring you joy across the board – or does it sometimes create unwarranted stress?
Often-times parents who have loved cooking prior to having children, have the realisation that it’s simply not possible to scratch that itch – at least to the same degree whilst their children are young. And when they do succumb to that external pressure and inner drive to compulsively create, it can and does become stressful!
Giving yourself permission
The first place to start, whenever we’re trying to create change is by acknowledging what already is. If you have a version of this story – whether it’s an inner resistance to expanding your repertoire of impressive meals, or the compulsive desire to create that you can’t seem to switch off – start to observe how it plays out.
Next, ask yourself if anyone is actually complaining about having the same paleo brownie recipe over and over. Chances are, they’re not. So, give yourself permission to stick with the tried and tested recipes that your family actually like – even if it feels repetitive.
Tweakable formulas and ‘base’ recipes
One of the greatest hacks to relieve both uninspired cooks and compulsive creators alike, is having tweakable base recipe ideas that can be jazzed up and converted into a whole range of new and different versions.
Get yourself a basic sweet muffin recipe. If you make it every week, the recipe will be autosaved in your head and with no extra thinking it can become banana and walnut, raspberry and pear, or any other exotic combination of your choice. A basic savoury muffin or vegetable slice can offer the exact same flexibility and freedom.
And when it comes to main meals – the same principle occurs. With only some minor tweaks to your herb and spice list, your slow-cooked beef stew can become an Indian curry or a delicious Hungarian goulash. Your Bolognese, a springboard to Mexican tacos or cottage pie.
Re-write your kitchen stories – with us!
As we finish up this series and after so much wonderful feedback from our readers (thank you!), my wonderful co-pilot Danielle from Lick the Plates and I have decided to host a free five-day online workshop in September. Our mission is to help you find joy, ease and purpose in cooking again.
As we hope we’ve made abundantly clear over the past six weeks, cooking doesn’t have to feel like a chore. With the support of a group of like-minded cooks (and non-cooks!) who are ready to ditch their self-imposed stories, we’ll help you rewrite that boring mind chatter to help you reclaim the kitchen as a fun and energising place to be.
If you’ve been following along and have enjoyed some of the tips and musings we’ve shared over the past six weeks – it’s a tiny sliver of what we’ll be exploring with you in this workshop. We’d love to you to join us!
Head to stirringchange.com to register (it’s free).
Georgia is a clinically trained nutritionist, wholefoods chef, columnist and mum. She’s been featured in Body & Soul and had TV appearances on ABC Breakfast and Studio 10 for her unique approach to food and health. She’s known for reinventing traditional foods for the modern kitchen and was instrumental in a radical new approach to sports nutrition with a program for the NRL Parramatta Eels, kickstarting their ascent on the ladder in recent years. Find out more at stirringchange.com.