This week I led two Improv Cooking Challenges for a group of cool, hard-working, athletic women who also happen to be raising small children.
We talked exclusively about practical ways to get a meal on the table without compromising on the other aspects of life like working out, working hard, and raising a family. We then went into the kitchen to compete in a Chopped-style cook-off. Not surprisingly, seasoned cooks and newbies alike, made some darn good food and fast. The food was so good in fact that people were tasting before the competition was over.
The experience left me wondering - if it’s possible to make healthy, fast meals in almost no time at all, why don't more people cook?
In no particular order, here's what's keeping you out of the kitchen (and what to do about it):
The Pinterest Effect: We scroll through our feeds and feel under-qualified because their food looks amazing and our food looks so well, dull. For one, just like models are not as they seem in real life neither is food. Good lighting and the right stylist go a long way. And two, the Top Chef judges are not coming over to judge your food. Anything you cook at home is almost guaranteed to be better for you than something you get from a restaurant. So you rock that broken omelette.
No one eats what I make. You plan a meal, shop, somehow make it all happen and then, “But I don’t like salmon!” You silently (maybe not silently?) curse and vow never to cook for these ungrateful beasts again. Cooking for picky eaters can be a maddening experience and won’t be resolved overnight. My advice is to rely on customizable meals (if you’ve taken Improv Cooking, all the Master Meals are customizable). For example, everyone likes tacos in your house, so one night a week you do DIY tacos. The meat eaters add meat, the veggie eaters add veggies. Everyone is happy and you save time by only making one meal.
Raw chicken is gross: Raw meat, bleh. Who wants to deal with that? I get it.
Start by cooking vegetables and buying cooked proteins that have been minimally processed (for example, a good-quality rotisserie chicken without preservatives).
Ask the butcher at the meat counter to chop your meat for you and then just dump it in a hot skillet so you never have to touch it.
Cook vegetarian meals instead.
I don't have time and/or don't know what to make. The ability to be an efficient and inspired cook is a learned skill (not an innate ability). I've distilled many years of practice into the frameworks and inspiration that I shared with the group this week and that I also offer here. If this is your barrier, it doesn't have to be.
I wish you all a very happy holiday filled with the tastes and smells of your favorite childhood meals, the best company you can keep, and the best wine you can still afford now that those presents are all purchased and wrapped ;-)