Our favorite reader tips for getting your groove back in the kitchen


It can be disconcerting when you no longer enjoy an activity you once loved. But when that activity isn’t just a hobby but a necessity of life that you’re still forced to do day in and day out — as is the case with cooking — the situation becomes more complex and troubling. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to overcome a cooking rut and reclaim your joy in the kitchen. It was quite the conversation starter, so here are some of my favorite tips that readers shared for rekindling one’s flame with their kitchen. (Tips have been lightly edited for clarity, grammar and length.)

In a cooking rut? Here are 5 ways to reclaim your joy.

“During the shutdown, a friend started a ‘cookbook collector’s challenge’ Facebook group,” AnnieH writes. “The challenge was to cook one new recipe from every cookbook you own. In my case it sometimes meant cooking for the first time out of a book I’d picked up at a used book sale and sometimes struggling to find a recipe I’d never tried in an old favorite. A few were duds, but some have become new favorites. It was great fun. I only had about 25 cookbooks. The friend had almost 100, but she still finished the challenge in the first six months.”

If you don’t have a large personal cookbook collection, then head to your local library. “Don’t overlook your public library as a wonderful source of inspiration,” melissaweaverdunning reminds us. “I like to browse the cookbook section in person or online for new-to-me cookbooks and ideas. Most libraries also have services like Hoopla or Libby, so you can look at books online or even download a cookbook for the loan period.”

“I also set myself cooking challenges,” smartFEM adds. “For instance, a young relative of mine has gone vegan while she is breast feeding because she can’t eat red meat and her infant is allergic to dairy and soy. So I will be baking her a vegan birthday cake, something I’ve never even thought of doing before.”

“I do think growing your own food helps. Even if it’s just a pot of rosemary or basil on the windowsill,” Reader from Toronto suggests. I think it’d be rare not to find pleasure in preparing a dish including ingredients that you’ve nurtured. Perhaps it’s time to take back up growing green onions in your windowsill?

5 reasons to grow a vegetable garden, beyond the vegetables

This comment from Merle66 really stopped me in my tracks: “So many of my friends say they don’t see the point in cooking just for themselves, but my attitude is that if you aren’t worth cooking for, who is?” Well, Merle66, I couldn’t agree more. “Making a really nice meal for yourself is an expression of self-love, just as cooking for others is an expression of love.”

“People bemoan being ‘alone’,” JA Rigge echoes. “Try to look at it as eating, doing and saying whatever you want, whenever you want. There is a certain joy and freedom in that.”

“When we realized we were stuck at home in the beginning of the pandemic, we started making dinner special: using the ‘guest’ dishes and glassware and dressing up the table differently,” RedEric1 writes, “treating ourselves as guests.”

This tip was included in my previous article, but it bears repeating. “If at one point in your life you really loved to bake or cook, and right now you don’t, give it space to come back to you, and it will,” cookbook author and licensed therapist Jack Hazan says. If you’ve never enjoyed being in the kitchen, then simply waiting won’t do the trick. But if cooking and baking were activities that you truly loved, that passion will return eventually. In the meantime, you can turn to quick and easy pantry recipes to feed you during the in-between time, or follow these summer cooking tips if it’s more that you’re looking for ways to beat the heat.

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