Tri-Berry Crumbles [and getting out of a cooking rut]
"Food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives, they preoccupy, delight and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity."
-Robert Farrar Capon
This past spring and summer, I felt stuck in a cooking rut. This activity that usually gave me so much joy left me feeling completely depleted. I didn’t want to cook for my family. Having four-year-olds complain about what you put in front of them certainly didn’t motivate me to work harder in the kitchen. I didn’t even really want to cook for the blog. I felt lost in a sea of food bloggers and writers, not totally fitting in in either space, and I felt creatively depleted.
When this block happens as a writer, I try to do two things. 1. Read good writing. 2. Sit my butt in the chair and do the work.
Sometimes getting out of a creative rut is a messy, slow ordeal. It’s not like a lightbulb moment where suddenly inspiration turns on and illuminates my way. It often feels more like a poorly lit crawl in the mud.
I’ve found the cooking rut to be similar to the writing rut, and getting out requires two similar tasks: 1. Cook good recipes. 2. Get my butt in the kitchen and do the work.
So in July, I hosted an online cookbook club. I worked my way through many of the recipes in Ina Garten’s book, Make It Ahead, alongside a group of about 50 women. We pored over the pages of the book. Now splatters and stains mark the pages, but an untouched cookbook doesn’t taste nearly as good as the food from a well-worn one. I made new recipes, revisited a couple old favorites, and researched tips, tricks, and techniques. And just like with writing, I noticed that eventually, the creative drive returned, and I learned to love the work of chopping and stirring, cooking and baking once again.
That doesn’t mean of course that I’m motivated to make dinner every night. But it does mean there’s a joyful, beautiful, flavorful way out of the cooking rut. There are resources and cookbooks and blogs with enough inspiration to remind us that cooking doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be a joy that sits us down meal after meal, giving us a chance to savor the food and the people at our tables.
What are you making this week? Do you have any favorite cookbooks or new ones you’d like to dive into?