Bi-weekly Associate Editor of Bon Appetit Christina Chaey writes about what she’s currently cooking. Pro tip: if you Sign up for the newsletterYou will get the ball before anyone else.
Dear healthy friends,
Hello, hello and a happy new year; After a brief hiatus from the unsolicited newsletter at the end of the year, it feels good to be back.
It’s a little late in the month to discuss New Year’s resolutions. But since this year didn’t feel real – like really real – until the inauguration, I give myself permission to share some thoughts on my resolution to make 2021 the year I cook less.
A bit of backstory: Long before eating became my career, I had a late-night habit of coming home from work and starting a hectic evening with multiple cooking projects. I never thought about when I got home (usually after 8pm) or how tired I was (extremely) or any other external factor in my life; I just knew that I had to cook. Most evenings of the week I would regularly check dough for cinnamon rolls or braised beef (or rather both) after 11pm. By the time I finished cleaning the kitchen and fell to bed at 2 a.m. I was craving the temporary satisfaction of feeling productive. It was the reassurance I needed in my twenties working so many jobs where I felt lost and was good at nothing but refused to ask for help because I believed it made me seem weak would.
At the time, I viewed cooking as the activity that helped me recover and recover from the stress of the work day. I often said that cooking was my therapy. Yet I couldn’t understand why I never really felt relaxed after a packed week in which a full week of products was washed and stored and a glass of stewed fruit, homemade chicken broth, a batch of cereal and cereal for packed lunches, whole not to mention what I made for dinner. The more I crossed my “To Cook” list, the more stressed and hectic I felt – even though I had at least taken care of tomorrow’s lunch. It seemed like no number of late nights carefully tending pots of beans or caramelized onions could transform the persistent inner voice that made me believe I couldn’t get enough of my life, despite regular comments from friends and colleagues that I was one of the busiest people they knew.
It would be a decade before I realized that my compulsive need to cook, to cook, to cook was an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with my anxiety; I had disguised it as a form of “relaxation” for just so many years that I had deceived myself. In fact, it wasn’t until months after the pandemic (and the start of therapy) that I was slowly able to realize that the iron tale I had constructed about the role of cooking in my life was a total delusion.
My resolution this year is to cook less, but with more intent. To think critically about why I choose to cook the things I do and make sure I put myself in an environment where I feel really relaxed, not tied to time, and have enough energy to be able to (fine, maybe two) project to take on at a time. So I spent an afternoon on the last holiday and slowly made a pan of butternut squash and leek lasagne out of it Anna Hezel‘s wonderful cookbook.
And on those extremely busy days when the thought of cooking dinner only adds stress to an already stressful day, I break out the good cheese and crackers. That’s what they’re there for; There is always tomorrow to cook.
Until next time,