Hacking Cooking

A friend and client Jayne McAllister asked me why I hated cooking so much.  She went on to describe the luscious meal that she and her husband had just whipped up, the fact they really don’t out to eat much because she always feels like she can do a better job of cooking herself, and how it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight with fresh ingredients that one can control.  She’s right, I know she’s right, but I still don’t like to cook.

I can’t really explain why I  hate cooking so much.  I guess I hate the fact that after the process is done, the kitchen is trashed and the meal is subpar at best.  Not to mention the fact that I’m much more interested in working on a design project for a client, my own business, dreaming up new marketing ideas and the like.

Kitchen Horror

This could be me, screaming and resisting the kitchen horror that is cooking

My relationship with cooking didn’t start off this way.  As I child I was fascinated by cooking.  One of the first “real” meals I ever made was Eggs Benedict – I was about 7 years old.  I had no idea what “Eggs Benedict” was but I remember hearing the name and thinking that it sounded so fancy.  I begged my mom to help me make it.  We found a recipe, a double boiler and some time later I was serving it for dinner to my parents, grandparents and sister.

Later as I teenager I was absolutely enthralled with the idea of “entertaining.”  I had been reading a few of mom mother’s Southern Living magazines and loved looking at the pictures of the welcoming homes, the country kitchens, and table settings.  I talked my mother into letting my try a lasagna recipe and I invited several of my friends over (boys and girls) to an evening of refined entertainment.  My mother even let me use the “good china” and sit in the fancy dining room.  My lasagna turned out a little soupy (the horror!) but it was really good.

So where did things go wrong with my relationship with cooking?  I still love to read cookbooks.  I could lose an entire Saturday watching the TV FoodNetwork.  I still love the thought of entertaining and warm smells wafting through a cozy kitchen.  When and how did it become drudgery and depressing?

I have a few theories but here’s what I think:

1.  I never “had” to cook as a child, it was a treat to be allowed to cook.  So cooking was a fun hobby and not some other item on the to-do list like it is now.

2.  My mother, grandmother and/or sister was always around to clean up after me.  I’m not a naturally neat person.  They knew this and they were the best sous chefs!  I could play and create and throw things around and, as if by magic, everything stayed tidy.

3.  Like so many other things in life, the romanticized version of the cozy home kitchen leaves out the reality of the details.  Yes, there’s planning, grocery shopping, cleaning, and failed attempts behind those pictures of the perfect meal.

4.  Perhaps I’ve been lazy.  It’s a hard thing to face.  I pride myself on being anything but lazy but I must admit, there has been an element of laziness in the whole resistance.

So why am I telling you this now, in this Networker for ***Business*** Women website?  Because I know that no amount of success is worth the cost in suboptimal health that comes from constantly eating out or making meals from processed junk.  Hey, processed foods and eating out are also very expensive!  Start eating healthier at home and you’ll discover money to invest for retirement, a nice vacation or a even a new Apple gadget (now you’re talking!).

So there’s still the reality of how I am going to get my cooking mojo back (if I ever really had it) and all that it entails.

I’m not going to worry about loving it.  There’s lots of things that we do on a daily basis that we don’t love.  Perhaps that excitement about making something new and fancy will come back one day, perhaps it won’t.  But I’m not going to be successful at anything if I don’t feed myself and those I love right.  Good nutrition is just foundational.

I started on this journey quite a while ago, silently, when I discovered eMeals.  The cool thing about this service is that the planning and list making is done for you each week based on your eating preferences, preferred grocery store and family size.  The recipes are definitely on the “beginner” side (good for me) and aimed at busy people (even better for me).  Most meals don’t take that long to make and/or use slow-cookers or other make ahead techniques.

I also love all of the recipes by Ellie Krieger and have several of her cookbooks.  Ellie is a FoodNetwork chef and dietician.  Her recipes use easy to find ingredients and make simple substitutions in order to make healthier options of everyone’s favorites.  Her crab cake recipe is fantastic and I’ve even made my own tweaks.  Thor (my husband) likes the crab cakes so much he says it’s the best crab cakes he’s ever had.  He NEVER says that about my cooking.

I’ve also discovered The Pioneer Woman.  I found her blog first before I found her on the FoodNetwork.  She’s really funny and breaks down recipes in a way that make it seem that even the cooking challenged (like me) can be successful.

So am I a cooking queen now?  No.  I still hate it.  I’m just trying to be more aware of my daily choices.  In fact, as I type this I must confess that my kitchen is still trashed from dinner last night.  I made the mistake of sitting down (just for a little bit) after a long day to “veg out” for a bit before I tackled the kitchen and fell asleep.  Thor (the Hubs), Bella (our Little Pampered Dog) and I didn’t make it passed the couch last night.  Yep, we all woke up to the sunrise in the living room!  Now I have the added thrill (sarcasm) of waking up to thrashed kitchen and a load of dishes to do….ugh.  I absolutely loathe waking up to a messy kitchen.  I can’t stand it!  Why oh why did I fall asleep!?!!!

messy kitchen

Yes, this was my kitchen this morning…ugh!

What am I going to make for dinner tonight?  Who knows and that’s the honest truth.

But I’m going to do it.  I’m going to crack the code.  I’m going to do more than just “try.”  In geek-speak, I will “hack” cooking.  I will fail and falter, I know this.  But I will more often than not cook food “things” as close to their natural state as possible, in the most healthful way possible.  I will figure out what sort of dietary lifestyle is the healthiest and follow that…not for vanity but for health reasons.  I’ve done way more complicated things surely I can do this.  (Did you like my pep talk to myself just there – truth be told, I’m kinda intimidated).

So if you are a Type A, over-achiever, get-it-done kind of woman who hates to cook and want to join me on this quest just follow my posts under “hacking cooking” and we’ll go down this yellow-brick-road together.  If you are are already a kitchen dynamo, perhaps you can leave a few comments on the blog posts or on the voicemail to help the rest of us.  Either way, I’m sure you’ll be entertained by my misadventures.

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