Prescription for Perfectionism–Relax
Previous posts opened the subject of cooking fears and where they might have come from. My theory: Blame the Olympics! In fairness, however, the Olympics aren’t really to blame. They are just a symptom. The perfectionism, complexity and audience intolerance they encourage are just where we find ourselves at the dawn of the 21st century.
The bigger question is: What can we do to avoid the pitfalls of this trio? How can we ease our fears and make cooking a more pleasant experience, as it should be. After all, food is a pretty nice part of our lives.
Here are four solutions I see, all maddeningly simple: Relax. Limit your exposure. Have fun. Dispense with naysaying.
Start with the first prescription: Relax. Relax the expectations. Relax as we cook. Relax at the store.
Of course that’s what the experts say about all our stress-related maladies. Just relax. I’ve been tempted to wring some necks when given that advice. “Give me a specific remedy, a list of things I can do,” I wanted to shout.
There are indeed specific things we can do to make mealtimes more manageable and enjoyable. That is what my book is all about. But to begin with, we’ve got to feel good about heading to the kitchen, and that takes relaxing our expectations.
No doubt about it, that is hard work. Imagine putting a plate of black beans and rice on the table with a simple zucchini sauté on the side and being completely at ease. No garnish. No MSG-hyped flavor. No exotic ingredients. No designer dinnerware. Just reason to sit down, slow down for 15 minutes, relax and savor.
In the section of my book on “Deadly Expectations,” I tell the story of a friend who is both a cookbook author and experienced dietician, i.e., the last person on earth you’d expect to have problems cooking. Nevertheless, she was distressed one day about the sorry state of her meals. From the way she talked, it sounded like she and her husband were living on fast food burgers and take out pizza. Actually their meals were not so bad at all: vegetables every night, lots of fruit, balanced meals, and whole foods without a lot of excess fat or sugar. The distress she felt was just because her meals were a little less interesting than usual, and with good reason,since she was busy finalizing a book and had little time for cooking. So there you have it: unrealistic expectations robbing us of mealtime pleasure.
One of the participants in my KitchenSmart series came back after the first class having discovered a great antidote for unrealistic expectations: a glass of wine while making dinner! It put everything in just the right perspective, she informed us.
Tomorrow, how limiting exposure can help. . . .