When you do a job and don't care, everyone knows. The lackluster appearance of halfheartedly prepared food foreshadows the ho-hum flavors to come. The art of cooking goes hand-in-hand with the concept of putting your heart into the food you make. Thorough pre-preparation (mise en place) is the first part of the process; it gives your creative madness a safety net of some tried and true method.
A couple of weeks ago I cooked food at a conference for PKU patients. The first thing I did was wash all the produce. When the other chef and some volunteers saw the mounds of dripping just-washed produce they took a moment to admire our mass of ingredients. Washing the produce was a blend of mindless and mindful. Setting it out in a big display was a way for me to set the mood at the start of a cooking marathon.
If you're making a sandwich, make it a really good sandwich. I had PB&J for breakfast today. Actually I had two steamy whole wheat Eggos (in the freezer as part of a care package someone got me last time I was sick) lots of freshly ground peanut butter, and a big schmear of Peach Praline jam I picked up at a farmer's market in Des Moines. It was a gooood breakfast that I'll have again tomorrow so I can polish off the waffles. I started my day by treating myself to a quick but decent breakfast.
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If you're in a kitchen rut it's safe to assume that you're not giving it your all. Ruts, by definition, are entropic. The first step is to simply take a bit of a risk. Don't buy the same kinds of fruit and vegetables every time you shop. Order something different in your favorite restaurant. Try roasting your potatoes instead of mashing them...
When you start taking culinary risks you get an immediate reward. You get anticipation, new recipes, and a low dose of salivary adrenalin. Bring the cheese to a party - just bring it in a bowl made of cheddar mounded high and peppered with nuts and dried fruit.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.