My most recent cooking funk and how to escape...
Do you ever find yourself in a cooking funk? Uninterested, uninspired, bored with the process...
What do you do to get out of the funk?
Occasionally I do get in a rut or funk. The funk comes from cooking for a motley assortment of eaters in my household: 4 adults (husband, adult brother, elderly parents) and my 10-year-old daughter. Quite often, my daughter is the easiest to please. I have one vegetarian, 3 people with sodium/HBP issues, 2 with acid reflux issues, and 4 with high cholesterol. My parents are Scandinavians with the traditional love of bland food and distrust of spices more interesting than black pepper.
Nonetheless, I press on, and usually inflict my cooking preferences on them within reason. When I get bored, I challenge myself by changing things up with new "rules," i.e., two weeks with no pasta dishes, or no chicken, or a new vegetable every day, etc. Something to get me to think outside the box, which gets me searching for new ideas and then I get inspired again.
Or I go on strike and eat out.
I most definitely get that way at times. One thing I do is to pull out a few cookbooks I haven't looked at for a while and read them cover-to-cover. It reminds me of dishes I've wanted to make and never have. I also find myself with renewed interest when the seasons change: maybe I'm just tired of cooking the same seasonal foods over again for several months. This time of year, a trip to the reopened farmers' market gets me going again. My other inspiration is having company and a reason to cook and share with different people.
Like Terrie H, I too go through the cookbooks -and all the back issues of Bon Appetit and other food magazines that I've stuck index cards in to write recipes on- and visit the Farmer's Market. Also visit restaurant supply stores and any really interesting food emporiums.
I usually get in that funk when I'm just plain old tired of being the one cooking all the time. So I make sure we go out for dinner at gastronomically interesting places, especially if we can get even a little bit out of town and go to some gem of a restaurant where food is obviously their passion.
So take a break! We all need one once in a while!
Great suggestions already. Mine will overlap a bit. I think a fallow period is sometimes a good period of regeneration.
1. Date night, once a month. You and a loved one (spouse, friend, kiddo) or even solo, to a new restaurant. New flavors, new inspiration, out of the kitchen. (If family needs feeding at home that night, leave a salad and a re-heatable standby, maybe a DVD also, for them.)
2. Dig through those trimmed-out recipes/saved links/cookbooks for inspiration. Or choose a fresh seasonal veggie or a locally-known specialty meat or cheese as a starting point, and search for recipes.
3. Buy a couple of new spices and challenge yourself with them. (Penzeys, etc.)
4. Shop at a different grocer than usual. (You'd be surprised at how a new store layout and slightly different selection can stimulate ideas.) Or time to visit the farmer's market, if it's not your usual.
5. Sprout your own leafy or bean sprouts. (I love sprouting, and the daily -- very brief -- involvement with living foods in your kitchen is very energizing.)
6. Replace that (knife/cutting board/colander/etc.) that slows down prep and that you've been meaning to upgrade. Not a huge expenditure, just a little perk.
I get into a funk as well. Lately, though, I've really been enjoying my subscription to Saveur Magazine. This month has some great Mexican Recipes. Last month was The Sandwich Issue, before that it was Sicilian. Somehow, whatever I'm craving is on the cover( or maybe I'm craving it because it's on the cover). I always get some interesting new ideas or recommendations. There's an article on Måzi's Piri Piri Sauce, which I can't wait to try.
It's just fun to read, and gets me out of my same old - same old.