Making Cooking An Enjoyable Experience

As a self-taught chef, it took me years to build confidence in the kitchen and to view cooking as something other than stressful.  I had to do a lot of experimenting, read cookbooks, watched Youtube videos, and learned from friends, but with time I found ways to make cooking a pleasurable experience.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’ve mastered various cooking techniques and cleaning methods, and finally figured out a way to successfully cut a goddamn onion without crying. Huzzah!

Kitchen preparation is equally as important as the cooking process.  When you eat, you absorb not only the nutrients but also the energy of the food. Macrobiotics, a dietary philosophy centered around health status, location, age, gender, etc., follows the premise that every action on the food affects the quality and nutritional value of the meal.  Every single slice or chop, the speed of the stirring, the quality of the food, the mood the cook is in, as well as the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, is consumed with the food.  Ever heard the expression “Cook with love?”  Aim for that.  Cook with love, and you’ll taste the love.

Keep a Clean Workspace

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.  In the first one, you walk into your kitchen about to cook and everything is a mess.  Crumbs and wrappers litter your counter and dirty dishes pile high in the sink.  In the second scenario, you walk into your clean, clutter-free kitchen about to prepare a meal.  In which situation do you imagine you’d be more excited or inclined to cook?

More than likely, you chose scenario two. Having a tidy workspace always makes the task at hand more inviting.  According to the Japanese, both cleaning and cooking should be a meditation.  Messy spaces can affect your happiness and heighten stress levels, while clean ones have the opposite impact.  I’ve found that I am so much more in the mood to cook when I have the space to work.  Of course, for some, cleaning can be a drag to do after a meal, so this brings me to my next tip.

                                    Clean As You Go

Julia Child says, “In professional kitchens most chefs enforce the ‘clean as you go’ rule, which prevents unsightly messes from building to unmanageable levels and removes clutter, which can distract even the most efficient cooks as they chop, grill, and plate through the evening.” (source: PBS.org)

Cleaning as you go may sound like a lot of effort, but it’s not. I swear, adopting this kitchen habit has totally improved the entire cooking experience.  Not only does it keep counters clutter-free throughout food prep, but there’s much less mess to clean up after the meal is over. For each meal I cook, I now put a paper garbage bag, compost bag or bowl on the counter as my designated scraps bin (I highly recommend composting to reduce your carbon footprint).  I work on a cutting board and prep each item one at a time, pouring scraps into the compost bag as I go. Each prepped food goes into a bowl to keep things separate.  It takes hardly any effort at all. Look how tidy everything looks in this photo below:

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Have Fun With It

If you aren’t having fun yet, then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get your family or friends to help out.  If I find a recipe online, I like to print it out and read through all the directions before I start so that I know exactly what to expect.  I’ve neglected to read through the whole recipe only to find that I wasn’t prepared for some of the later steps.  This would completely halt the cooking process or throw the timing off. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and seasoning and always choose fresh, quality products.  The fresher and more seasonal your ingredients, the more delicious and nutritious your food will be.

Good luck and happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

The Art of Chewing

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How many of us rush our meals inhaling our food and not taking the time to thoroughly enjoy each bite? I think most of us our guilty of this bad habit, including myself. But, with the information I’m about to present, maybe next meal we’ll take the time to slow down and CHEW.

Chewing is the first step of digestion. During this process enzymes begin breaking down food as soon as it comes into contact with your saliva. The more you chew your food, the more time the enzymes have to start breaking down your food. The smaller the food becomes, the easier it is for our bodies to break down. The more broken down the food is in the stomach, the more nutrients and energy can be absorbed. When our food isn’t broken down properly, we often get gassy, bloated, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, abdominal pain or have digestive issues.

Next meal try to practice mindful eating. Try to enjoy the smell and the flavor of the food in your mouth. Savor each bite and aim to chew 20-30 times per bite. It can be hard to remember and achieve, but even if you remember midway through you meal give it a shot. In macrobiotics, an Asian diet focused on achieving health and vitality through the balancing of yin-and-yang with food, chewing is a huge point of emphasis and many practiced chewers can chew up to 100 times per bite!

Aside from making digestion easier, chewing can also help with weight loss. The more we slow down with our eating, the quicker our bodies realize we’re full. Downing our food can lead to weight gain, because we end up eating much more than our bodies actually need. If you still aren’t convinced, chewing also helps prevent tooth decay and plaque. Saliva, produced through chewing, clears bacteria and excess food particles keeping our mouths clean.