This is the fifth instalment 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 hearing from Danielle Abell from Lick The Plates and examining the belief that experimenting with or trying new things in the kitchen is ‘too hard’.
Sometimes our kitchen routine brings comfort. You’re in the flow and you don’t need to think. You buy the same things every time you shop and cook the same dishes. It’s familiar and easy.
And there are times when that same kitchen routine feels boring, monotonous and claustrophobic. You want a change, but you don’t know where to start.
When you’re feeling the monotony, but also feel stuck, chances are you’re telling yourself a version of the story that “trying new things is overwhelming”.
However, while you may feel overwhelmed trying new things, it doesn’t truly mean that it is overwhelming.
One step at a time
When you’re feeling the overwhelm, know that even the most competent home cooks feel it at times! Generally, overwhelm kicks in when we get ahead of ourselves and spend more time stressing than actually doing anything. For example, you want to cook something new for dinner tonight, it’s 4:30pm and have no idea where to start. The next thing you know, it’s 6:00pm, you’ve gone down the Google vortex with 27 recipe windows open on your phone and not so much as an onion has been chopped. Cue meltdown.
Cooking new dishes takes planning
When you break it down, there are a surprising number of steps involved in cooking something new, so go easy on yourself:
1. Feel inspired to try something new
2. Decide what to cook
3. Buy the ingredients
4. Put aside time to follow the recipe and make the thing
5. Eat it (and persuade your family to try this new thing)
6. Use up or store the remainders of those new ingredients you bought.
No wonder you feel overwhelmed! And what if you do overcome all of this and then the dish is a flop? All that wasted energy!
Is the overwhelm actually a fear of failure?
Maybe the overwhelm isn’t actually about the planning and cooking, but more about the fear of the final dish. Do you worry that it will be a flop and can’t face all that wasted time and energy? That’s a completely reasonable fear! And let me tell you… it may be a flop. And that’s when your powers of creative thinking will kick in. Go back to last week’s article online on how to save a dish that didn’t turn out. There are some great tips in there. But the main thing is.. there are no failures! Just opportunities to reinvent.
Tired of being stuck in a rut? Try this.
- Avoid the online abyss and be inspired by real people instead
Google can be totally overwhelming and bottomless. Instead, find an online community, or even just a few friends, and share your kitchen successes (and failures)! Talk about what you’re cooking and share recipes and ideas. It is so much more fun cooking together, even if you are each doing it in your own kitchens. All you need is one idea to implement.
2. Set a realistic goal of cooking something new every fortnight
If you like the structure of a challenge, set yourself one! But be realistic. One new dish a week may be too much, but once a fortnight is manageable. Or maybe one new dish a month sits better with you. Whatever it is, commit to it and plan ahead.
3. If you’re dealing with fussy eaters, start slow
There’s nothing more discouraging than putting your energy into creating something new, only to have your children say, ‘yuck’. So, mitigate that risk. Try cooking new and interesting side dishes and keep the main part of the meal familiar. If your kids don’t want to try the new thing, don’t force them and enjoy it yourself instead.
4. Instead of a new dish, try a new ingredient
Buying a whole list of new ingredients to make a complicated dish can be overwhelming, so instead try just buying one new ingredient a week and add it to things you’re already cooking. This is great practice in learning to use up what you have – a priceless skill in the kitchen. Furthermore, eating a diversity of foods is one of the best things we can do for our gut health.
A recipe for Garlic Gomasio (Georgia calls these ‘sprinkles’ in her kitchen)
Adults and children alike love condiments, especially when it can be sprinkled. We like to use them to add a creative spin to a boring meal. Here is a recipe, which is meant as a springboard, not to limit you. Omit the garlic if you’d prefer and add in any other spices you’d like. Or keep it to just toasted sesame seeds and salt. Up to you!
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons good quality salt (Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Heat a dry pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sesame seeds and move around for a few minutes until slightly coloured. Don’t walk away from this step.
- Move sesame seeds to a plate and leave to cool.
- Once cool, add to pestle and mortar along with salt and garlic powder. Grind them together until slightly broken down.
- Store in a glass jar and keep in the fridge.
- Sprinkle over ANYTHING: rice, sandwiches, steamed vegetables, salads or eggs.
Danielle is an ex-picky eater turned food lover and founder of Lick the Plates. She is passionate about inspiring women to cook from scratch the old-fashioned way, but with modern equipment and techniques. She teaches cooking both face to face and virtually and sells Thermomixes, as the best kitchen tool to make it all possible. Find her at www.licktheplates.com and on most socials.