Overcoming The Monotony of Dinner

I’ve been cooking professionally for ten years. I started in the restaurant business when I was 17, answering phones, hostessing and eventually waiting tables at Giordano’s on Clark. I’ve owned my own brick and mortar restaurant and morphed it into solely catering cause the money was better and then shifted in a personal chef cause I had a small child and wanted flexibility.

Overwhelmingly the complaint I hear again and again is “I hate figuring out dinner night after night”. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing because these days cooking for people and filling their fridges and freezers with yumminess is my bread and butter. So I like the fact that so many people get bored and frustrated with this daily task. There was a point when I had a grade schooler and a baby and around 4 o’clock I wanted to rip my hair our because it was time to think about dinner AGAIN. So, I’ve been there and I know how after changing diapers and sitting through storytime and KidsYoga all day the last thing you want to do is make dinner.

Recently I’ve started teaching people to cook in their homes so my perspective has had to shift a bit. And here’s what I think. You have to have passion for the job. Find one thing about cooking that you love and focus on that part.

Some people are enamored of the finished product. They love to page through a magazines/websites/food blog and are inspired by the glossy, glamour shots of glistening roasted chicken and impossibly green chopped kale salads.

Some people, and over the years I’ve become one of these too, love the process. Washing, chopping, sauteing are meditative for me. I relax in the rhythms of chopping and preparing. My tension releases with the smells of fresh cut herbs and sauteing garlic. I have music play lists just for cooking and sometimes I breathe deeply while being perfectly present and other times I play Bruce Springsteen from my childhood and dance around the kitchen.

There are those of us, and I’m also one of these, that love the taste, the smell, the seduction of new flavors and new combinations. We love traveling and learning about cultures/ethnicities/origins. We also love the shopping adventure. We love finding a new Asian/Latino/African market that has ingredients we don’t know how to use. We love the research of new recipes/flavors/techniques and sometimes equipment.

There are the people who adore the challenge of the healthful dinner for their families. Finding ways to hide extra veggies in meatloaf, slipping ground turkey into burger night, adding quinoa where it won’t be noticed excites and inspires them.

Whichever one of these people you are really jump into your food persona. Find your food passion, read food blogs, try new flavors, get restaurant recommendations so you can try new flavors go to the Farmer’s Markets and talk with the vendors cause these are people that are passionate about what they do. If that still doesn’t do it try food in literature, food in movies. food in art, food in music. I could write a marketmonth’s worth of posts on food movies I love.

Now just to be clear, I’m not suggesting you turn into one of those obnoxious, hipster foodies that raves about the newest restaurant 3 days after they’ve opened.. I’m simply suggesting that food nourishes us body, mind and spiritand if you’re resisting/struggling, it’s time to embrace this most basic necessity. It’s like getting on the mat. The poses that you least like and often avoid or the poses you need to work on. Find where your mind hits the wall and find some ease and some comfort there. Be present with the energy you bring to planning, shopping, chopping, cooking, serving, eating. Be mindful and let the internal shift happen naturally.

Coming next time-some more practical tips to make dinner easier. Have any great tips you’ve learned along the way? Post them to the comments or email me!


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