Need to re-find joy in hobby of cooking

Please help. For the last 15 years, I have loved cooking, reading and trying new recipes. I was fairly good at it. Cooking brought me joy. Past 13 months have brought some life difficulties, so I all but stopped. Now ready to return but feel like I lost my knack. I can't figure out what to make and when I do cook, I feel like I never knew how before. I feel sad because this was a joyful hobby of mine. Big weekend coming up where I need to get back and do a lot of cooking for family weekend. Any advice?



Bevi October 12, 2011
FARTHEST from a therapist - I agree with many above and feel that taking pleasure in the smallest things about cooking is a great attitude. And it is nice to treat yourself to a gadget or shiny new something every now and then. I also have found that it's nice to think about cooking something in general - say, a winter squash dish because they are in season, and surf this site for all sorts of ideas and recipes. You can find a preparation or technique that you are familiar with, or take a whole new tack. I can't tell you how much fun it has been to explore this site and make dishes that were never in my repertoire. And I love the advice that you keep your stress levels low by knowingly staying away from cooking situations that overwhelm you.
cookname October 12, 2011
Oh-one more thing. I planned to make a kind of tabbouleh with some left over chicken and feta but I mixed up barley and bulger (!!?!!!???) as if I had never cooked or read before. But in the spirit of not seeking perfection, (and not making this a reason to list all the reasons why I had lost my sense in the kitchen), I made recipe as planned but diced some of the roasted potatoes and just called it a kind of flavorful chicken salad. done. The barley/bulger thing, while upsetting at first, now strikes me as funny.
cookname October 12, 2011
Hello Everyone who was kind and generous to me! I want to thank all of you for your input and fantastic support. This was my very first time going online to seek answers/support in this way and it was far beyond my imagination that so many people would respond so generously. Thank you to all. I was especially touched by drbabs who said she was thinking of me at 5:30 in the morning! A quick update: A previous favorite of mine had been: Roasted chicken with rosemary, mustard, garlic, and potatoes and carrots. Didn't make enough mustard so not much flavor and chicken came out dry. But it was Something To Eat on first night of having family. Made a delicious zucchini pie. Sounds weird, but like a quiche without a crust for my vegetarian family members. I took your advice and slowed down, really concentrated, breathed, and focused quietly. It came out GREAT. Made my favorite chicken soup and I loved that. (I know: a lot of chicken, but no red meat for some, no fish for some and no pork for some). By Monday, with guests gone took all kids out for BOTH lunch and dinner! never did that before. But wanted a break and time to reflect on how it all went first time back cooking. I also took time to read through some favorite recipes and gathered a few for this week. Also: replaced my oven mitts, planned to replace a bent (?!) jelly roll pan. hopefully on my way. Thank you all so much. And by the by...what are you cooking tonight? (I have 3 children 12, 9, 5).
drbabs October 7, 2011
I was thinking about you at 5:30 this morning when I was baking for break fast tomorrow. One more suggestion: buy something or make some improvement that makes cooking easier for you. Even if your budget is limited--get your knives sharpened, buy a real whisk if you've been whisking with a fork. Get some tongs if you only use spatulas. Buy a new non-stick pan. Something that says easy, modern and fun to you. I was thinking of this as I was peeling apples with my serrated peeler (kuhn rikon, <$10) thinking about how much easier this peeler is than whatever I used to do, and how much more pleasurable it is to peel apples now. I hope you have a great weekend.
luvcookbooks October 7, 2011
Agree with the potluck suggestion, my plan is never to make a solo dinner for guests again. Three of us did a benefit "Julie and Julia" dinner for 15 and it was a breeze...
Agree with making a familiar recipe in large quantities. For me, it's black bean chili over rice. The original recipe is in the Greens cookbook, and I've simplified it to the max. Can serve hundreds without significant sweat. (did serve hundreds with help from freezer)
Agree with judicious use of your favorite bakery, deli, prepared foods place. Where do you live? What is your budget?
ChefJune October 6, 2011
I agree with melusine! don't try to do too much in one day. Go easy on yourself. I agree with the suggestions to cook (bake?) something you've always loved. For me that would probably be to bake bread or make ice cream, but you have to go with your best love.

And just relax and enjoy the process. You haven't forgotten how.

Sending you a hug.
boulangere October 5, 2011
Oh yeah, agree with the above wisdom. Don't be needlessly polite. If anyone asks if they can bring anything, give out a homework assignment! You need to enjoy the event as much as everyone else, and congratulate yourself on distributing assignments.
creamtea October 5, 2011
Agree with Melusine, do your shopping in advance, break some of it down, cook over a few days if possible. Do as much prep work a day in advance if possible, like washing peeling and chopping some of the vegetables tho' not garlic, onion or potatoes, keep in a sealed and burped ziploc; measure out dry ingreds. for cake and store in a ziploc--or bake ahead and freeze. Stews, soups are better cooked a day ahead, skimmed and reheated. Try to keep things simple; allow people to help or best, make it potluck if possible. If anyone asks if they can bring something, don't turn them down, accept all offers :)
Melusine October 5, 2011
My shrink-without-a-license inputs: Don't plan, shop and cook and serve on the same day. By the time you get back from the store and put everything away, the prep work, cooking and cleaning may seem overwhelming.
skittle October 5, 2011
If it were me, I'd cook a dish that evoked a happy memory. That way, you can associate the two together. :)
boulangere October 5, 2011
Another non-therapist checking in here . . . perhaps use the Search field above to look for food52 versions of some of your favorite dishes. I agree completely with the potential stress of cooking for a large family gathering even for a seasoned professional, so make it as easy and pleasurable for yourself as you can. I'd definitely second the potluck idea! And a warm welcome back to the kitchen.
Summer O. October 5, 2011
I think drbabs is on to something. Do a couple things you can do in your sleep, items you used to make regularly before your sabbatical. Cook during a time when you don't have any other commitments, turn off the phone and turn on some music. You will get your confidence back quickly and enjoy your time with your family.
drbabs October 5, 2011
I'm with wssmom. (Also NOT a therapist.) Big family weekend? You're in charge of food? Do it the Ina Garten way--make one or two things that you love and can do well, and order the rest out. Or make it a fun family potluck. You host and make the main dish; divide up side dishes and desserts and have a recipe exchange. What did you love doing the most when you used to cook? I'd start with that.

(For me, it was baking when I got back into cooking. And it's still my favorite thing to do.)
SKK October 5, 2011
Oh, I can relate! You haven't lost your knack, you have simply taken a sabbatical from your hobby and are looking at things differently. Your cook of yesterday and cook of today just need a chance to get integrated.

A couple of possibilities: For the week-end gathering only make the recipes that are fun for you and inspire you. Cook with a partner in the kitchen. Enjoy the shopping and the prep, the beautiful colors and scents and textures. Try a recipe you have never tried before and let yourself make mistakes. And appreciate yourself for having come through the past 13 months stronger and willing to learn new ways of living and cooking.
wssmom October 5, 2011
First, so glad you are feeling stronger and ready to get back to cooking! Doing a lot of cooking for a big family weekend can be stressful for anyone, even the most accomplished cooks. I am not a psychologist or a counselor or anything remotely like that, but just as a member of the food52 community I ask, do you really want to put that much pressure on yourself? Perhaps you might consider starting with one or two dishes. What are your favorite things to eat?
EmilyC October 5, 2011
Start small, and make a few things that you used to make -- or try a new dish or two. I'd keep it simple so you can enjoy the cooking but not have it feel at all stressful or overwhelming. You can always supplement your homemade items with store-bought. Most of all, just enjoy the time back in the kitchen!
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