How I Conquered Cooking

My guilty secret is that I hate to cook. I know, there are lots of you out there–kindred spirits.  But this is a special problem for me because I teach nutrition.  My cooking deficiency syndrome is not only incongruous but somewhat  impairs my credibility.  Many of my students know about this little problem. They offer me encouragement and recipes.  None of this works.  It also doesn’t help that I’m very healthy, and have always managed to forage for food quite nicely without having to squarely face the cooking issue .

But something shifted when I recently had my 60th birthday. I realized that if I’m going to achieve everything I long to achieve in this life, I need to take the best possible care of myself.  And there’s no getting around it, conscious cooking of nutrient dense food has to be a major part of that self care. But I knew, in order to change my perspective, I had to “think different” as they say. No amount of recipe collecting or cookbook perusing was going to address my fundamental aversion. So I took a unique approach.

I’m what you’d call a “place” person. That is to say, my immediate environment is crucial to my happiness, even my ability to function well.  My bedroom has to be just so, to get a good night’s sleep.  My office has to be in perfect harmony to keep the paperwork flowing smoothly.  My laptop has to be oriented in just the right direction in order to write.  You get the picture.  So I took a look at my kitchen.  I might add here that I’m in the midst of a year-long curriculum in classical feng shui, so I’m a bit obsessed with space.  But it was clear to me that my kitchen was not optimally arranged to support an interest in cooking.  It was more like a breezeway–the qi just rushing on through to the next room with no place to nest (i.e. cook.)

I made some simple but crucial adjustments. The most important change was to put a rolling apple wood utility cart right smack dab in the middle, hung with an assortment of wonderful kitchen tools. I also warmed things up with terra cotta and plants in the kitchen window.  Voila! I immediately noticed that I was spending more time in my kitchen, buzzing happily around the apple wood cart. Then, miraculously, I started to enjoy stopping on the way home to shop for food (a previously dreaded chore.) After all, if I was going to potter in my new user-friendly kitchen, I wanted some stuff with which to potter.  I was optimistic.

But still, I had not yet reached that longed-for shift to the next level where cooking felt like fun rather than work.  Then I had an epiphany. Being a strong believer in magic and ritual, I realized that cooking is closely akin to the practice of alchemy.  I needed a magician’s spell, a way to shape shift into my cooking persona when I entered the kitchen.  Off I went to my local Bed, Bath & Beyond, a magician’s dream store if there ever was one.  I came home with a bright red chef’s apron, a serious, heavy duty affair that wraps around the body, and features an array of pockets like a carpenter’s tool belt. (I’m not yet clear about what is supposed to live in all these pockets, but I’m sure they’re a good thing.) Hanging the apron on a carefully selected hook in my kitchen made me feel like an initiate into a secret society.

Last night I dawned my new chef’s apron/magician’s cloak,  pulled a marvelous assortment of ingredients from the fridge, and went to work–chicken apple sausages, kale, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, herbs and spices–all the while thinking happily to myself that something good was going to come of all this.  Then I realized that something still felt off.  There was a missing ingredient in the environment.  I stood there, draped in my red apron, vegetable knife in hand, trying to figure it out.  And at last it came to me.  I needed music! But which music?  After a moment’s consideration I knew there was only one possible choice–the Bach Cello Suites.  Ah, there now. Contentedly humming to myself, I cooked the best meal ever. All it took was a little feng shui, a copious handful of magic, and a dash of J.S. Bach.  Enter the cook….

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