The Cooking Habit

Cooking is an aspirational, should-do goal, similar to meditation and saving money. Lots of people want to do it (or do more of it), but most of them struggle to actually establish the habit. That’s how it’s been for me anyway.

TV-Dinner-MagnetI’ve had complex relationship with food since I went to college and could no longer rely on my mother to be fed. I cringe when recalling my eating habits in early adulthood. It was a lot of eating out (expensive & usually unhealthy); and microwave TV dinners, frozen pizzas, and canned soups (flat out unhealthy). Yuck!

It’s been a lot of trial and error to get to anything that resembles cooking. My eating habits have improved significantly over the past few years and it does make me feel better overall.

Initial Attempt –Ask Mom For Help

cookbookMy mom was enthusiastic to help when I asked her about cooking. She sent me more cookbooks and personal recipes than I could keep track of. It was too much information to sift through.  I procrastinated and when I finally did pick a recipe I couldn’t decipher it. So I reverted back to old bad habits.

Later Attempts –Ask Mom to Teach Me

Eventually I got motivated to try cooking again. I realized that I shouldn’t rely on mom to pick a recipe for me. I needed to do that for myself. I also needed more support than just ideas of what to cook. Mom had to show me how to cook the meal.

The problem this time was that I picked a recipe that was too complicated. We succeeded in making a meal, but I failed in setting the cooking habit.

messy-kitchen-after-baking-tshlm5tWe tried this several times over, but cooking never really stuck. I always had some excuse to give up and go back to my tired old routine. Maybe I didn’t like how the meal turned out…or I didn’t have all of the equipment needed to prepare the meal…or it took too long to prep…or it took to long to clean up.

The Break through

The cooking habit finally started to stick for me when my mom suggested a simple dish I could try on my own, pan fried chicken breast. The ingredients were simple and so was the equipment needed. Not only was it tasty, it was also quick to prepare and easy to clean up. The total time was less than 30 minutes.

This meal has become a staple of my diet. I prepare it at least 2 days a week. (It’s a good thing I don’t get bored with the same food very easily.) As I have become more proficient at it I’ve started to add more flair to the meal, like adding sautéed garlic to the frying pan, which really brings out the flavor of the meat. (Wow! That sounds like something an actual cook would say.)

Getting good at this one recipe has also motivated me to try new dishes. I recently started experimenting with a salmon recipe. My mom & sisters are probably reading this in shock right now as I have refused to eat fish as recently as 2 years ago.

My point is that correcting habits requires trial & error. Things probably won’t work on the 1st attempt (or even the 2nd or 3rd attempts). You need to be persistent and keep trying, but rather than trying harder you need to try simpler so that you can do it consistently.

Consistency should be the initial goal.  After consistency is achieved, a simple habit can grow into more. And ideally it can become a keystone habit

As a side note, asking your mother for help a good habit to start cultivated.

Thanks Mom!  Thanks for reading!

Don

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