Slavishly following recipes is killing the creative cook in you. And it’s not just the cook in you that’s getting smothered. Think about it. We (most of us) follow rules at work all day long. We adhere to the law (most of us), and we shop the way advertising dictates us to shop. We are bombarded with the ‘right’ way to do almost everything in our daily lives. And yes we slavishly follow recipes.
Ready meals, jars of sauces and how-to-cook-dinner-in-5-minutes’ recipe books are killing our ability to enjoy a creative relationship with the food that we are eating. Our culinary creativity has been squashed right out of us. It’s a sad state of affairs. The good news is you can do something about it. And it won’t just awaken the chef in you. Getting creative in the kitchen will have a much broader impact than you think.
Following a recipe book to the letter may help you turn out a decent plate of food, but it’s crushing your ability to think outside of the box in the kitchen. It’s yet another case of merely following instructions.
When was the last time you took a plain sheet of paper and a load of colourful paints and let your imagination take over? Let me guess. Primary school? Just like art (having therapeutic effects), we think culinary creativity in the kitchen leads to greater things, as well as great food. Here, Dakota Murphey working alongside The Brighton Kitchen Company, explains why.
Nourishing the self
Getting creative in the kitchen is just the beginning. Nourishing yourself with food takes effort, but the nutritional benefits are worth it. Spending time to learn about food and go off-piste a bit with your cooking may push you out of your comfort zone, but it will steer you away from the additives and preservatives found in the vast majority of ready prepared food.
Nourishing yourself with good food and with good intention will do wonders for your self-respect. Once you engage with the process of preparing food from scratch, you won’t want to go back. It will leave you feeling so good about yourself, you’ll want to embrace other nourishing lifestyle choices too. Watching a sunset, reading a great book, getting a massage, going for a bracing walk are just some of the truly positive acts of self-nourishment you can try. Nourishment isn’t all about food, but lovingly preparing your food is a great start. It invites you to think about how you look after yourself.
Learning to love failure
Dealing with failure is one of life’s great lessons. Some do it exceptionally well. They turn failure over in their palms and reflect. They don’t see failure as a reason to stop. They see it as a reason to adapt or change direction completely. Failure doesn’t have to be negative. In life, dealing with failure often sets apart the successful from those who give up.
Some people refuse to cook. “Can’t cook, won’t cook” they say. Some dabble in cookery, some seek culinary perfection. Some are awesomely good cooks. Learning to love your culinary failures is the best way to learn about food, its flavours, its wonderful array of textures, and its wonderful smell. Too much chilli and you know next time not to be so heavy handed. Too little thyme and you’ll know just how much to add next time to bring out its wonderful aroma.
Giving up at the first hurdle in the kitchen will more than likely permeate to how you approach other things in life. Believe it or not, the kitchen is a great place to learn about the lessons of failure and how to bounce back. Don’t give up. Learn from your cooking mistakes and try again. Your newfound relationship with failures in the kitchen will transform your approach when things don’t go to plan in other areas of your life.
Focus, concentration and mindfulness
Much has been written about the mindfulness of cooking. Bringing your full attention to the process of preparing food brings huge health benefits. Mindfulness of both cooking and eating will change your relationship with food completely. When you bring focus and concentration to the art of preparing food, you become far more aware of what is going into the food you are cooking. The health benefits of food awareness are huge. It’s like a light bulb going on.
We spend so much of our day in this busy modern world multi-tasking. We are bombarded with texts, emails and thoughts. Thoughts of what we should be doing, what we need to do next and what we’ve forgotten to do. It’s exhausting. Next time you are preparing food, turn off your phone. Take the time to think only about the task in hand (prepping and cooking great food) and you’ll be surprised at how relaxed you feel.
Food is much more than fuel. The way we shop, our regard for animal welfare, and how we prepare food adds a much greater dimension to the purpose of food than we realise. Connecting with where our food comes from brings kindness into our cooking. Thinking about the source of our food and the process it has been through to get to our kitchen can only be a good thing.
So what’s wrong with recipe books? Nothing per se. They can be great guides to dip in and out of in our journey to learn about food. The problem is in blindly following instructions without any connection to what we are doing.
So, ditch the recipe book, focus, get creative and enjoy the failures as much as the successes. It’s definitely good for the soul.