How to get rid of a cooking rut

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“Do you like to cook?” When presented with this question in the past, I’d always respond with some kind of enthusiasm (“Of course!”) or scoff in the affirmative (“Duh”), depending on my penchant for sarcasm at the moment. But lately, the question has stopped me—and I’m not alone. “I’ve based a significant part of my life and personality on answering the question yes,” cookbook author Ella Risbridger told me on a Zoom call. “But no, don’t make me cook.” Washington Post readers shared similar sentiments, expressing being in a rut, lacking motivation and losing their mojo in the kitchen, even though they once loved it.

Part of that is because people have been forced into the kitchen more than usual in the past couple of years. “When you tell someone to do something, it’s less fun,” says Risbridger. On top of that, society is going through a mental health crisis because of all the anxiety-producing events we are experiencing, such as the global health emergency, inflation and economic uncertainty, racial injustice and the fight for bodily autonomy, just to name a few. .

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For baker and licensed therapist Jack Hazan, finishing his upcoming cookbook, “Mind Over Batter,” led to a recent bout of burnout. “It was due to pressure, uncertainty, loneliness and feeling insecure in what I was doing,” he says.

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“For me, baking is a relationship, and I almost broke up,” Hazan says. “Desire in a long-term relationship doesn’t just fall from the sky, does it? You have to reinvent yourself and try new things. One way he did that Buying new baking equipment. If you’re on a budget, hold off on buying a stand mixer, but look for spoons and spatulas that are fun to use instead.

Or maybe it’s decision fatigue that’s wearing you down. The Eat Voraciously newsletter tells you what to eat for dinner four nights a week, along with ideas for substitutions based on your preferences and what’s in your pantry. Cookbook Roulette – where you take a cookbook off your shelf, open to a random page and cook whatever dish is in front of you (feel free to go back and forth a page for some flexibility) – is an easy way to skip dinner. wind of fate. And if you want the added bonus of not grocery shopping, meal kit delivery services are a great option to consider.

Find new sources of inspiration

“When you’re in a rut, it’s really important to find new inspiration, to find new ideas,” Risbridger says. It’s all about finding something that excites you. It can be dishes that are completely new to you or ingredients that you have never cooked or seen before. “Don’t buy cookbooks from people you don’t know,” she says, and if you don’t want to buy new cookbooks, look to the Internet or social media for free ideas. One of her favorite sources of inspiration is going to markets full of ingredients she knows nothing about. (“In my case, it’s a Polish supermarket.”) Then you can ask the store or people in your network what to make with them, which might turn out to be a delicious recipe you’ve never tried before. “A really good conversation with a stranger,” she says. “Then you’ve got that spark of human connection that makes it exciting to try.”

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“It’s a really easy place to get in a rut when you’re like, I don’t have anyone to cook for. “No one will notice if I just ate bread,” Risbridger says. Her latest cookbook, “The Year of Miracles,” was intended to be about cooking for others, but then it’s about “trying to think about why it’s not and why I’m cooking anyway.” turned into a book” because it was when. Written (2020).

Now that we’re not under such a strict lockdown, invite people over for a meal — depending on your comfort level — just as your guest or have them prepare the food with you. “When you have two people in the kitchen, you feel connected,” says Hazan, who offers baking therapy as a form of therapy for his patients. (Alternatively, you can exchange food to practice social distancing.)

Another option is to return to family recipes. As for Hazan, he began searching for his grandmother Recipes for Syrian pastries that she had never baked before. “When I jumped into a completely different kind of thinking, it was not only exciting, but it was something that fed my soul, because it was so personal to me,” Hazan says. “I felt connected to what I was doing, which allowed the joy to come out.”

If you don’t have access to your own family recipes, ask other people in your life who care about you. “Even when I’m physically alone, it’s a great way to feel connected,” says Risbridger.

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“Don’t go into it alone,” Hazan says. Reach out to friends or join virtual communities that can provide support, which Hazan credits with helping her overcome her baking rut. “There are a lot of other people that you’re going through. And maybe they’re not there now, but they were there before.” Although he acknowledges the reluctance of some “because they don’t want to burden people,” Hazan encourages you to do so anyway, because such reluctance is often unfounded.

“A lot of times, a cooking rut can feel very isolating and very frustrating and like you’re stuck. And I think that loneliness keeps you stuck,” Risbridger says. “Reaching out to people and talking to people about what excites them about food is a great way to shake yourself up and get a little bit of perspective and feel like a person.”

“I don’t guarantee, but I’m going to guarantee that if at one point in your life, you really loved to bake or cook, and now you give it a place to come back to you, and it will,” says Hazan, citing a quote from author Anne Lamott. Doing: “If you unplug it for a few minutes almost everything will work again, including you.”

Of course, you still need to feed yourself while you wait for the pleasure to return – but that doesn’t mean these meals need to be boring to pass the time. “Fill your fridge with things you’re excited to eat and that can jazz up a bowl of rice,” says Risbridger. Some of her favorites are frozen dumplings (“It’s the best food you can have. It’s such a little luxury, a little parcel of goodness”), sauerkraut, kimchi and eggs (“Eggs in anything, and you’re like, oh, wow, what food”).

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While you wait, try not to beat yourself up too much about your long-lost love of cooking. “Take the pressure off,” she says. “If you’re someone who likes to cook first, you’ll get an idea that sends you back to the kitchen at some point. You’ll see a recipe that makes you think, ‘I have to make that.’

How do you overcome a cooking rut and regain the joy in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.

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