Cooking Fear? Part 4

Prescription for Perfectionism: Limiting Exposure and Sticking to a Comfortable Creative Zone

Yesterday’s post talked about relaxing our expectations. That can be hard to do on a jam-packed schedule. One thing that can help: Limiting our exposure to things that fan the flames of panic. Seeing a whole pile of recipes clipped from the newspaper, for example, can easily get us whipped into a frenzy of disappointment. “Why haven’t I made any of those?!” we moan in despair.

That’s where limiting our exposure comes in. In other words: Turn off the TV (or at least the ads) if that fuels preconceived notions about what your meals should look like. When reading magazines, stick to the articles and don’t dawdle over the lovely pictures of homemade butternut squash and Gorgonzola ravioli or the shots of some professional chef preparing an apricot stuffed rack of lamb. While on the Internet, don’t follow the yellow brick road into a land of infinite recipe possibilities. Don’t linger over mailers showing all the cool new kitchen gadgets on sale at your local department store.

Instead, spend your time actually cooking, not being convinced that you could be doing a better job cooking.

Less is indeed more, as I repeatedly stress in my book. And that’s why de-cluttering, winnowing the chaff, and otherwise limiting our kitchen stuff is one of the most important KitchenSmart steps we can take.

So are we stuck with hamburgers and spaghetti for dinner? Is there any place for creativity?

Of course we’re not stuck with the same old thing for dinner every night and of course there is a place for creativity in our cooking, as long as it doesn’t stress you out! In other words, it’s a balancing act between too much and too little: Do stretch a little in the kitchen, but not to the point of stressing out.

Not surprisingly, balance points differ. Like an adrenalin junkie, I thrive on culinary challenge. Finding new uses for tomatillas, experimenting with totsoi greens and taking a flying leap with a completely unusual recipe don’t leave me feeling anxious.

Figure out where your stress point is, then be mindful about staying close to it. (Note that “staying close” includes stretching a little beyond it at times.) And once you know where your comfort territory lies, limit your exposure and keep your expectations in the same zone. This leaves you free to take on a little creativity now and then, but as a fun adventure rather than a daunting cross to drag around the kitchen.

Tomorrow, the final solution: “Dispense with the nay saying.” In the meantime, share your ideas for facing down our kitchen fears. . .


2 Responses

  1. […] how limiting exposure can help. . . […]


  2. Right, relax, breathe, do what you can but don’t make yourself crazy. I once heard that the cook’s mood is part of the meal. Stressed=yuck.


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