In a kitchen rut? Here are 5 ways to find your joy again.

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“Do you like to cook? When presented with this question in the past, I’d always respond with some form of enthusiasm (“Sure!”) or joke in the affirmative (“Duh.”) depending on my penchant for sarcasm in this regard. moment. But recently the question got me thinking – and I’m not the only one. “I’ve based a significant part of my life and personality on answering that question,” cookbook author Ella Risbridger told me on a Zoom call. “No, don’t make me cook.” Washington Post readers shared similar sentiments, expressing being in a rut, lacking inspiration, and missing their kitchen mojo despite their love.

Part of the reason is that people have been forced into the kitchen more than usual for the past couple of years. “When you tell someone you have to do anything, it becomes less fun,” Risbridger says. On top of that, society is going through a mental health crisis caused by all the anxiety-provoking events we are experiencing, including global health emergencies, inflation and economic uncertainty, racial injustice, and the battle for self-reliance. bodily, to name a few.

Can cooking serve as a balm for depression? For a British author, it saved his life.

For baker and licensed therapist Jack Hazan, the end of his upcoming cookbook, “Mind Over Batter,” has recently caused burnout. “It was caused by pressure, uncertainty, monotony and feeling insecure about what I was doing,” he says.

If any of these feelings are familiar to you, here are some strategies to rekindle your love for cooking.

“For me baking is a relationship and I almost broke up,” says Hazan. “Lust in long-term relationships doesn’t just drop out of the blue, does it? You have to reinvent yourself and try new things. One of the ways he did that was by buy new cooking tools. If you’re on a budget, maybe wait until you buy a stand mixer, but instead look for fun spoons and spatulas that just beg to be used.

Or maybe it was decision fatigue that wore you out. The Eat Voraciously newsletter tells you what to eat for dinner four nights a week, along with ideas for substitutions based on your preferences and what you have in your pantry. Cookbook Roulette – where you grab a cookbook from your shelf, open a random page, and cook whatever dish is in front of you (feel free to go back a page for more flexibility) – is an easy way to leave dinner to the winds of fate. And if you want the added benefit of not having to shop for groceries, meal kit delivery services are a great option to consider.

Find new sources of inspiration

“When you’re in a rut, it’s really important to find new inspiration, to come up with new ideas,” says Risbridger. It’s about looking for something you’re passionate about. These can be completely new dishes for you or simply ingredients that you have never cooked or even seen with before. “Buy cookbooks from people you don’t know,” she says, and if you don’t want to buy new cookbooks, turn to the internet or social media for free ideas. One of her favorite sources of inspiration is going to markets full of ingredients she knows nothing about. (“In my case, it’s usually the Polish supermarket.”) Then you can ask people at the store or in your networks what to do with it, which could also lead to a delicious recipe you’ve never tried previously. like “a really nice conversation with a stranger,” she says. “So you have that spark of human connection that makes it exciting to try.”

Our favorite cookbooks of 2021

“A really easy place to get into a rut is when you’re like, I don’t have anyone to cook for. No one will notice even if I’m just eating bread,” says Risbridger. Her latest cookbook, “The Year of Miracles,” was supposed to be about cooking for others, but then morphed into “this book about having none of that and trying to think of a reason to cook from anyway” because of when it was written (2020).

Now that we are no longer subject to such strict lockdowns, invite people over for dinner – depending on your comfort level – just as a guest or for them to cook the meal with you. When “you have two people in a kitchen, you feel connected,” says Hazan, who offers baking therapy as a form of treatment for her patients. (Alternatively, you can do a meal swap to practice social distancing.)

Another option is to turn to family recipes. For Hazan, he began to explore the recipes for Syrian pastries that he had never cooked before. “When I jumped into a totally different kind of thinking, it was not only exciting, but it was something that fed my soul, because it was personal to me,” Hazan says. “I felt connected to what I was doing, which allowed the joy to come out.”

If you don’t have access to your own family recipes, ask for those from other people in your life that are close to your heart. “Even when I’m physically alone, it’s a great way to feel connected,” Risbridger says.

How to create a family cookbook, filled with recipes from your favorite people

“Don’t go alone,” Hazan said. Reach out to friends or join virtual communities who can provide support, which Hazan credits with helping him overcome his baking rut. “There are so many other people going through what you are going through. And maybe they’re not there now, but they’ve been there before. While he acknowledges the reluctance some may feel about reaching out “because they don’t want to weigh people down,” Hazan encourages you to do it anyway, because such hesitation is often unfounded.

“A lot of times a kitchen rut can feel quite isolating and quite hopeless and quite like you’re stuck. And I think that stuck loneliness lives on,” Risbridger says. “Reaching out to people and talking to them about what excites them about food is a really great way to shake yourself up, gain some perspective, and feel like a person.”

“I don’t make guarantees, but I will guarantee if at some point in your life you really enjoyed cooking or cooking, and right now you don’t, give it space to come back to you , and it Will,” says Hazan, quoting a quote from author Anne Lamott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Sure, you still have to feed yourself while you wait for the joy to return, but that doesn’t mean those meals to pass the time have to be boring. “Fill your fridge with things you can’t wait to eat that might brighten up a bowl of rice,” says Risbridger. Some of her favorites include frozen dumplings (“The most indulgent food you can have. It’s such a little luxury, little packets of good.”), sauerkraut, kimchi and eggs (“Eggs on anything, and you’re like, oh, wow, what a meal.”).

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While you’re waiting, try not to blame yourself too much for your lost love of cooking. “Take the pressure off,” she says. “If you are a person who loved to cook before, you will have an idea that will send you back to cooking at some point. You’ll see a recipe that will make you think, ‘I have to do this.’ ”

How to overcome a culinary routine and find pleasure in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.

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