At one time or another, we have all experienced burn-out in the kitchen, whether occasionally or for years on end, it happens: nothing sounds good, nothing looks good, everything is boring or redundant or complicated or too much of a risk for heartburn later. Three meals a day, seven days a week: who can keep up with this kind of a demand for perfect dining satisfaction?
The answer is no one really, but in this life where our physical existence depends on bodily sustenance in the form of food, many of us try. In the 2009 comedy-drama film, Julie & Julia, a film written and directed by Nora Ephron, Julie Powell is a young New Yorker who aspires to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in 365 days and then relates her cooking experiences on her blog. Powell’s blog becomes a tribute to the chef whose book Mastering the Art of French Cooking became a definitive guide and inspiration to cooks everywhere. Early on in her cooking experiment, Powell writes: “353 days to go. A horrible day at work. An old grandma who looked as if she wouldn't harm a fly called me a pencil-pushing capitalist dupe. But then I came home and cooked chicken with cream, mushrooms and port, and it was total bliss.”
Bliss: it is a word that aptly describes the experience of delicious food, both in the eating and in the making. Bliss brought on by excellent food takes us to a place away from our daily troubles and concerns. Food, when cooked with concern for ingredients and flavor, heals us. It’s sacred, and that is why we so often refer to it as “bliss”. Cobblestone Café’s Chef Jessica Livingston used precisely the word “bliss” recently when she was profiled for a Meet the Chef blog by the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Describing her current favorite dish on Cobblestone Café’s menu, the Baked Spinach Salad, Jessica said, “Sometimes you create a dish and it just works on all levels. As a chef, when you create a dish that feels perfect, it’s bliss.”
In fact, many of the customers in our café are searching for (and find!) the bliss of a perfectly created meal. It is part of the passion we have about making good food with fresh ingredients, so we end up attracting others who are equally passionate about enjoying something simple and delicious. What about you? Do you enjoy the bliss of creating a delicious meal to savor at home, but are feeling uninspired in the kitchen lately? Here are a few suggestions for getting your culinary groove back, just in time for summer’s harvest of flavors to add a little amazing to any dish:
1) Change up your routine
Do you normally plan out your menus a week at a time, or wait until 4:00 to think about what to have for dinner? Staying in the same routine for cooking can squelch your creativity, so try a different approach if one or the other isn’t working for you. Maybe you need to give yourself time to browse for dishes on the internet or in cookbooks instead of waiting until the last minute, or perhaps the opposite is true: going with whatever moves you in the moment may be the spontaneity you need to come up with something new and different, so go to the store without a list and look around for something that you have never tried before to create a meal. Is chicken your routine? Try making a beef dish instead. Always making pasta dishes? Look at some other grain alternatives, like rice or quinoa to round out your meal. Burn-out can often be the result of getting in a rut more than anything else, so look at how you have been approaching cooking and try something different: you’ll be surprised that the new things you start to create!
2) Take a look around
There is food inspiration everywhere because food is all around us. Try different restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets. Learn how to use Pinterest or an email recipe subscription service like Emeals. Cooking is as much about the taste as it is the visual presentation of a specific meal, so don’t forget to look at how great chefs present their dishes as works of art and play with arranging your food on the plate when you serve it. You can also get inspired to be creative with your place settings, table decorations, and even adding lighting and accompanying music that accentuates the flavors in your main course. Adding ambiance to what you cook is part of a blissful dining experience.
3) Share the Bliss
Part of the experience of eating and cooking is sharing it with others, so if you are in a cooking rut, consider pairing up with a friend to cook for each other or cook together. An easy way to share the joy of cooking and eating with others is to organize a monthly potluck, where everyone brings a new dish to share with others. By doing this, there is less pressure on you to create every dish for the meal. Consider having a theme for each dinner and alternating hosting; let the host off the hook for preparing a dish and have that person provide drinks and create the ambiance for the dinner. Cooking for someone special always provides inspiration to go above and beyond, so don’t forget about taking time to cook a meal for your spouse or other loved one.
Happy Cooking…and whether you are inspired to cook or not, please come in to Cobblestone Café and enjoy some of the blissful summer dishes that Chef Jess has created. Our patio is open and the garden is blooming, which creates the perfect ambiance for ripe summer flavors! Reservations are available at 513-897-0021 and you can find our business hours on our website here.