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Do you prepare food in your head?

Peg Feb 1, 2011 09:41 AM

I spend about 90 minutes a day on public transport - and I often while away the time 'preparing food'.
I start with a rough idea, then mentally go through the steps to make it - often back tracking and modifying details or even starting again if it all seems to be going awry or too boring. I end up 'eating' the dish mentally, and if it tastes good (yes I'm that crazy) I write a mental shopping list for the ingredients I don't already have in stock.
Sometimes I 'make' the same dish over and over until I am happy with it, because only then will I take the plunge and try it out for real. Often I don't ever make the food (a lot of the 'recipes' are too unhealthy or expensive) - and on a few occasions I have come up with something that was just as yummy as I imagined it. Many times I just 'make and eat' something just for the pleasure of it, especially when I'm on my way home to a plate of boring leftovers. Oddly it makes the real food better, maybe because by the time I get home I am ravenous.
Does anyone else out there do this, or is it just me?

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  1. cayjohan RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 10:08 AM

    All. The. Time. Not just you, and I'm glad it's not just me! :) I seem to have a little sub-routine running all the time so that if I'm in the throes of insomnia, riding the bus, waiting on whatever-needs-waiting-on, I can toggle over into cooking something "in my head.". Sometimes something completely imaginary/unrealistic, sometimes as a very real intention for an upcoming meal. It's a pleasant pastime, but also really ends up serving me well, as by the time I get around to making one of these dishes or meals in the *real space outside of my skull*, I've got a pretty good game plan for stocking ingredients and technique and timing. (Or a pretty good understanding of why the idea is only good in my imagination.) Plus it's fun to experiment without the risk of destroying some spendy victuals in the process of ideation.

    1. buttertart RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 10:38 AM

      I always, always do that when I'm reading cookbooks - when I've finished reading a recipe I can pretty much taste it. That's how I decide which recipes I want to make. It's also why it's more fun to read cookbooks when I'm hungry.
      Nice to know I'm not alone...

      1. buttertart RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 10:53 AM

        Hi Peg, did you recover your sense of smell? Just saw an old thread on that. Hope so. ;-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: buttertart
          Peg RE: buttertart Feb 1, 2011 12:13 PM

          Hi Buttertart - yes, it came back after a few weeks thankfully.
          I get paranoid now every time I get a virus in case it happens again!

          1. re: Peg
            buttertart RE: Peg Feb 2, 2011 06:13 AM

            It happened to me once - just somewhat - could not stand mustard or anything vinegary, or garlic - they tasted utterly vile. Lasted a couple of weeks. It was horrid! I dread it every time I get sick too.

        2. ttoommyy RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 11:58 AM

          I do this all the time. I almost always fall asleep at night going over a recipe in my head, especially if I have a dinner party or something similar coming up.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ttoommyy
            cayjohan RE: ttoommyy Feb 1, 2011 12:43 PM

            Heh..the night-time imaginative "cooking" has on occasion resulted in my being slightly *surprised* that I didn't have this-that-and-the-other prepped and ready to go the next day! (Despite everything I was up to in my head in the middle of the night...)

            1. re: cayjohan
              goodhealthgourmet RE: cayjohan Feb 1, 2011 08:07 PM

              yes! happens to me all the time, and i get so disappointed when i realize i don't *actually* have the dish(es) in question sitting in the fridge or freezer.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                cayjohan RE: goodhealthgourmet Feb 1, 2011 08:34 PM

                Wouldn't that just be the ultimate kitchen gadget? The SomnoPrep, or something?

                1. re: cayjohan
                  buttertart RE: cayjohan Feb 2, 2011 06:18 AM

                  I love it! Set it...and forget it! I'm especially prone to nighttime "cooking" when I have a big do the next day..."first I'll do this..and then...oh no, better do...first...".

                  1. re: cayjohan
                    goodhealthgourmet RE: cayjohan Feb 2, 2011 09:33 AM

                    great. another kitchen gadget for me to covet.


            2. Jay F RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 11:59 AM

              Of course. Doesn't everyone?

              1. j
                jeanmarieok RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 12:11 PM

                Yep - i do the same thing. All the time!!

                1. chefathome RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 12:35 PM

                  ALWAYS! It is all about the food. Sometimes I catch myself planning meals and generally thinking of food even if I am talking to someone on the street. Unfortunately my attention span is short. With me often the conversation seems to swing back to food! "So sorry that Mabel is struggling with arthritis" somehow turns into our dinner menu. If I am not cooking a meal I either wish that I was or planning for it. Even whilst on vacation I daydream about it and really miss it. My husband and I can talk passionately about food for hours on end.

                  Genuine food people just know how a recipe or technique will turn out. You can tell by reading about it or thinking about it before you make it. It is sort of like trip planning - planning is half the fun, which is true!

                  1. I used to know how to cook... RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 12:38 PM

                    Yes, all the time. Kind of a mental mise en place.

                    As another poster commented, I can taste the finished dish in my head.

                    Helps to know if I've all the ingredients on hand too.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: I used to know how to cook...
                      Sharoneonta RE: I used to know how to cook... Feb 2, 2011 11:14 AM

                      "mental mise en place"

                      I love this~!

                      1. re: Sharoneonta
                        I used to know how to cook... RE: Sharoneonta Feb 2, 2011 01:30 PM

                        Yup, that's pretty much what it is.

                        Thanks, Sharon!


                    2. mucho gordo RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 01:25 PM

                      Funny you should mention that. Just last night, while watching Alton make a lasagna using tortillas, I thought: enchiladas......I could mix ground beef with chorizo, wrap some in a tortillas, pour some hot enchilada sauce over it and bake a few minutes.

                      1. ipsedixit RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 01:37 PM

                        Yes, all the time.

                        It's how I came up with some these recent creations:

                        - Chicken skin candy http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739272

                        - Fried poached eggs http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/695679

                        - Harvesting Chili Grease and using it in cornbread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763166

                        - Adding conpoy to chili http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7607...


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Peg RE: ipsedixit Feb 1, 2011 09:44 PM

                          Those eggs sound yum!
                          One of mine (more of an assemblage than a recipe) is pumpernickel topped with keta caviar topped with a lightly fried (intact) egg yolk. To be eaten when the yolk is warm and very oozy.
                          It took many mental attempts before I decided on pumpernickel - it has just the right texture and 'bite' to support the rich soft topping.

                        2. l
                          lemons RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 03:06 PM

                          Not so much the cooking, but making menus for specific groups of peopl,e.

                          1. s
                            sedimental RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 07:23 PM

                            I do it all the time too. Sometimes, I feels as though I already made it -and the challenge of it all is gone- and I lose my motivation to *actually* do it!!!!
                            I know, I'm a freak.

                            1. DuchessNukem RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 07:56 PM

                              I'll consider a grocery list, combine with what's at home, and plan the weekend's meals. I can envision the chopping of veggies, stirring, etc. Then I'll shop.

                              1. corneygirl RE: Peg Feb 1, 2011 08:19 PM

                                I menu plan, come up with shopping lists and think about the "order of operations" and techniques. I don't really envision my self stirring the soup, but I do imagine how things will taste.

                                1. s
                                  southernbelly RE: Peg Feb 2, 2011 11:12 AM


                                  Most often after completing a new recipe to see what it SHOULD have in it.

                                  Or putting together a cheese plate to find parings that are unusual and tasty!

                                  1. r
                                    ricepad RE: Peg Feb 2, 2011 11:28 AM

                                    What happens with me is kind of like a mental "Iron Chef", with the secret ingredient being something that's in the fridge. Once I've decided to use the chicken thighs or salmon filet or leftover ground beef or whatever, the rest of the day I'm mentally testing variations and options, starting with what else is in the fridge/pantry, and then expanding (if necessary) to what I might need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home.

                                    1. h
                                      HillJ RE: Peg Feb 6, 2011 05:29 PM

                                      Absolutely and I record ideas into a digital recorder I keep in my pocket so I don't forget them...especially when I'm at the market, ethnic grocer or traveling. My head can't hold on the data :) so I record it.

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