It’s a new year and once again many of us find ourselves with renewed goals for 2016. Many opt for the traditional resolutions of losing weight or exercising more after overindulging during the holidays. This year I have decided to take it a step further and apply a minimalist approach to my eating and lifestyle habits.
I recently read an article that alluded to the fact the minimalists like to say that they’re living more meaningfully and more deliberately, and that getting rid of most material possessions in their lives allows them to focus on what’s important: family, friends, hobbies, travel, experiences, etc. This article got me thinking on how it would apply to our everyday lives, cooking and eating.
We live in a society of the “eternal holiday.” After the New Year sale, there’s Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day… and shortly after we are back to Thanksgiving and Christmas again. For each holiday, stores have specials and themed products designed for us to over-shop and then we hold onto these things because we think they’re going to be useful in some hypothetical future that does not actually exist. Naturally, we end up with more than we need.
My curiosity led me to different blogs and articles, but one in particular grabbed my attention. Joshua Becker, from Becoming Minimalist, wrote A Simple Guide to Enjoy Cooking. “Enjoy” being the key word:
1. Clear your kitchen counters. A clean, uncluttered kitchen counter is refreshing. It communicates calm and order. It saves time and promotes cleanliness.
2. Cook healthy foods. There is a pleasant satisfaction that comes from preparing healthy food for you and your family. Its importance in the process cannot be overstated. It provides valuable motivation and incentive for cooking your own meals. And the positive benefits of cooking a healthy meal stretch far beyond the dinner table.
3. Use fresh ingredients. Replace dried spices with fresh ingredients (onion, garlic, parsley, basil, limes, lemons), the flavor of meals improve dramatically.
4. Own a sharp knife. Learn how to use it. It does not have to be expensive. And once you learn how to use it properly, preparing meals becomes significantly easier and more enjoyable.
5. Start with foods/recipes you enjoy. Begin by preparing meals you look forward to eating. And incorporate the same philosophy into cooking all new dishes at home.
6. Be confident. You can do this. Step up to the cutting board, the oven, or the stovetop with full confidence in your abilities. An anxious spirit does not enjoy creating. And unfortunately, an anxious spirit rarely succeeds. To enjoy cooking, you’ll need to convince yourself that you are able to do it. Eventually, a delicious meal and corresponding smile from your table guests will do the trick. But even before they do, believe in yourself. You will still make mistakes, but that’s okay. Just remember, the biggest mistake you can make is not believing in yourself.
7. Value presentation. There is an old saying among chefs that goes like this, “We eat with our eyes first.” Research and experience validates their claims. Food that looks good is more likely to taste good. Take some extra time to serve your food in a visually appealing presentation—even if you are eating alone. You’ll always enjoy it more.
8. Appreciate the eating. Be mindful of the cleaning. If you have a family, create the space and culture in your home that values eating together. For many families, this is not possible at every meal, but that does not mean space can’t still be created for some family meals together. You may need to establish some margin or get creative, but the more time spent together around the dinner table, the better. Appreciate the importance of sitting down long enough to enjoy your food. And likewise, learn to appreciate the act of cleaning up afterwards. It does not have to be seen as a chore if approached with the right mindset.
9. Record your favorite recipes. I store a small, index card box in our pantry. Inside, I keep all the successful recipes I have discovered over the years. And it has been an important step in increasing my enjoyment of cooking because the true value of the black box is that I have a wide selection of family-favorite recipes right at my fingertips.
Happy Cooking 2016!