A few weeks ago, I pulled out my food dehydrator from the back of my closet, dusted it off, and started making some raw food dishes.
In case you’re wondering what a dehydrator is, it’s a piece of equipment that “cooks” your food at a very low temperature in order to preserve its nutrients. You can make all sorts of amazing things: crackers made from chickpeas, tortillas made out of fresh corn and yellow peppers, and chocolate macarons with cocoa powder and coconut oil, to name a few.
A few years ago, I got super engaged in the raw food lifestyle. It’s a form of veganism in which none of the food is cooked. It sounds extreme, but the reality is that I found it fascinating that you could make so many traditional dishes with nothing but raw food, and I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity in doing it.
But recently, thanks to COVID, I’ve been in a major food rut (I’m sure you can relate). So I cleaned out my fridge, dug out my raw food cookbooks, bought some additional equipment, and got re-inspired in the kitchen.
Being inspired in your kitchen and thinking of cooking in a creative way isn’t something most of us do. And it’s especially true if you’ve spent years of your life trying to lose weight, dieting and failing over and over again.
If this sounds like you, you’ve likely developed a fearful and resistant relationship with food – which is one of the main reasons you haven’t been able to lose weight. As I always say, how you eat, rather than what you eat, is what needs to be fixed.
If you have this kind of distorted relationship with food, you’re going to view cooking as a chore – which means you’re going to take the path of least resistance when doing it (if you do it at all).
Seeing cooking as something you “have” to do and dread doing means you’re going to make the easiest meal possible – one with the fewest ingredients and the least amount of prep time. All of which means that you’re going to grab whatever’s in front of you.
Cooking is essential if you want to improve your diet and eat healthier. When you cook, you not only naturally get more variety, but by being hands-on with your food, you improve your relationship with it.
But if you’d rather call Door Dash than cook dinner, how do you motivate yourself to do it?
The easiest way is to think of cooking as creating. It sounds silly, but if you look at your meal as a piece of art you’re creating, the whole process transforms – instead of being a pain, it becomes fun and inspiring.
I used to hate cooking – or so I thought. I had never really tried it, and I’d convinced myself that I didn’t know how. So I ate Lean Cuisines as if they were going out of style, and my sole foray into making a meal was boiling pasta and putting microwaved broccoli on top.
But once I started cooking, I began to see it differently. The more I did it, the more I liked it. And the more I did it, the more adventurous I became.
I began to enjoy cooking, creating beautiful dishes for my family instead of laboring over the meal I had to put on the table for dinner. Fast forward 15 years, and I was dehydrating strips of zucchini and soaking cashews to make raw lasagna. (I swear, it’s fun!)
Here are some tips to start looking at cooking as an art instead of a chore:
Get organized. You can’t feel creative if you’re overloaded with a fridge full of junk and a kitchen without proper equipment. Spend a day or two weeding out cabinets and drawers, and get rid of expired condiments and worn-out or broken tools.
Then re-stock it. Buy basic staples like spices, sea salt, and olive oil, and get some basic equipment: a good set of knives, a food processor, and new spatulas and wooden spoons. If you want to go the extra mile, replace all your Tupperware containers and mismatched bowls.
Make it beautiful. Buy fresh flowers. Set out a bowl of lemons. Light a candle. Play classical music (I like Vivaldi) or some opera (Andrea Bocelli can inspire anyone).
If your kitchen looks like a drab prison cell, you’ll never want to be in it. Make your space feel alive – a place where you feel inspired and where creativity can flourish.
Start small. I always emphasize the importance of taking baby steps, so you can get small wins. If you “hate” to cook, you probably don’t want to start with The French Laundry Cookbook. (But if you feel inspired to do so, by all means do!)
Start adding fresh herbs like cilantro or basil to your dishes. Make a simple casserole. Try one new dish every week if you rarely cook. Get a cookbook that makes it easy. (I like Small Victories by Julia Turshen.)
Doing something – anything – makes you feel confident and in control. And feeling in control is essential if you’ve trained yourself to feel out of control when it comes to food.
Go slow. The fastest way to get into a creative zone is to slow down. And the fastest way to kill creativity is to be in a hurry.
Get rid of all distractions, and get in your kitchen with no goals or task list. Just move around and see what happens. Enjoy the process of cooking rather than speeding through it to get to the finished product. You’ll not only start to enjoy cooking, you’ll also appreciate your meal more – and you’ll eat it more slowly.
Change your thinking. As I just said, the biggest barrier to me enjoying cooking was the way I thought about it. Thoughts like “I don’t know how to cook,” “I don’t have time to cook,” and especially “I hate to cook” all kept me from even trying.
But once I started doing it, my thoughts began to change. And as my thoughts changed, how I saw myself changed. After a while, my family started seeing me as the chef in the family!
Honestly, the way most of us approach food and cooking is like booking a vacation to the middle of Nowhereville, USA, staying at the Motel 6, and going sightseeing at the mall. When the reality is that we could travel anywhere in the world, with limitless options for fun and endless beauty and flavor to enjoy.
Cooking can – and should be! – beautiful, creative, inspiring, and fun. After all, there’s nothing more beautiful than fueling yourself with fresh, nutritious foods and seeing the efforts of that self-care show up on the outside.
There’s no better time to readjust your perspective and set up your space to approach food as art and cooking as an art form – rather than a form of torture.
You don’t have to become super impressive in the kitchen – all you have to do is inspire yourself.