How to Cook an Achilles Heel

Posted on January 3, 2012



That box is a problem. It just sits there. And it mocks me.

There was a time when I loved cooking. The Incredible-Insightful Boss I mentioned earlier was also an Incredible-Insightful cook. She pointed me to a few resources, taught me about knives and suggested a cooking school where classes would be focused on technique and food quality, not “speedy meals for busy moms.”

I loved the classes. I learned how to prepare different vegetables, soups, stews and basic sauces. I also learned how to prepare chicken, beef and vegetable stocks and what to do with various herbs and spices. (I still prefer vegetable stock from a package. I’ve never made a vegetable stock worth using as a soup base.)

I became a great cook. I eagerly awaited each issue of Cook’s Illustrated when I’d attempt to roast “the perfect” chicken or make “the perfect” paella. I invested in high quality pots, pans, knives and ingredients and I knew how to use them!

I became a CONFIDENT cook. I  impressed myself so much that I considered a career change. My hubris swelled (as did my food snobbery). But Incredible-Insightful Boss reminded me that commercial cooking was not conducive to family life. She said if I wanted to be divorced, working until 2 am and sleeping most mornings while my children ran circles around me, then go for it!  Lady Sisyphus’ hubris deflated.

I am not sure what happened but I have lost that confidence. I have also lost my interest in making “the perfect” anything. Meals have become an obligation. Cooking has become my Achilles heel.

I find myself making the same tired dishes – tacos, spaghetti, roasted chicken (I can still roast “the perfect” chicken.) Romaine or spinach have become my sides. Sometimes I add a bagette from our local baker. I’ll get ambitious every few weeks and go in search of “the perfect” vegetarian dish that will make the meat-eaters among us beg for more. Likewise, I will attempt to grill a steak that will put people into an ecstatic coma. Usually, the response is, “Where are the cheese sticks?”

That brings me to two questions: What the heck am I doing here and what took the joy out of cooking?

I guess the better question is: What am I going to do about it?

That requires some action:

  1. I will do more meal planning. I actually do this in fits and spurts but need to make it a consistent priority.
  2. I will live in the present. I have gotten in the habit of poo-pooing my meals before they are even on the table.That leads me to poo-pooing every meal I’ve ever made. That gives license to all others at the table to do the same. It’s time to let the meals speak for themselves.
  3. I will seek out more information. Whether it’s a hands-on class or an online resource, I am going to learn about the foods that are going onto the stovetop, in the oven and into my body.
  4. I will find the joy again. I used to love chopping onions. I used to love the sound and smell of a good saute. I used to love mixing, pouring, stirring. I felt peaceful and “in the zone” while I was cooking. I felt like I was giving my family a gift every day with every meal. I have no idea how to get that back but in the meantime, I’ll fake it until I make it.

Do you enjoy cooking? Is it a source of joy for you?