Recently I was marveling at the swimming trials for the Olympics. How I love to see those swimmers. They move so smoothly and with such precision. Each one shows incredible skill and poise.
I’m a really awkward swimmer. The average person watching me would chuckle and say I’m a pretty poor swimmer (I laugh about it too.) I’ve attributed this fact to my poor eyesight (“Coke bottle” glasses as a kid) and a lack of stamina in activities that require me to hold my breath (asthma as a young adult). But the truth is I love to be in the water. Any chance I get to hop in a refreshing pool and ‘swim’ is a good day for me, even though I can usually only eek out some mini-laps bursts, a few yards at a time. But I still love the way swimming makes me feel.
Often, people become ‘good’ (or skilled) at activities they enjoy doing. This may be because they become knowledgeable about what they’re doing, apply themselves, and gain a lot of experience.
But do you have to be good at something to enjoy doing it? Of course not!
For some people, a kitchen is a very intimidating place. You may think because you are not naturally a good cook that you don’t belong in the kitchen. That’s simply not true! I personally am not an amazing cook, or baker, for that matter. Some people are surprised to hear this because I wrote a book [The Shared-Meal Revolution] about sharing meals. People also assume as the youngest of 11 children born to an Italian mother I have natural cooking talents and am whipping up Osso Buco every night. But that’s not me. I lack discipline (in measuring ingredients) and at times I’m strangely impatient for the end result. But there is truly nothing I enjoy more than being in the kitchen, working with different foods and ingredients, and creating something delicious.
Because I love to be in the kitchen, in the activity of making something that I’ll enjoy with other people, I truly enjoy it!
And, like swimming, I do it because I love the way it makes me feel.
I wonder…how many of us allow our self-talk of, “I don’t know how to cook” keep us away from the kitchen?
Why not “re-frame” the way you think about your cooking skills?
Here’s a few tips:
Think about the beauty of the ingredients (the shape of an artichoke, or the complexity of something as simple as the layers of a head of lettuce.)
Resist feeling defeated that your lemon meringue pie doesn’t look like Ina Garten’s on TV (It’s the taste that counts!)
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (A famous and helpful quote to remember in general – perfection is overrated!)
Make a grilled turkey and tomato sandwich with a fruit salad on the side for dinner (and don’t knock yourself for not making a more formal entrée.)
You don’t need to “recreate the wheel” every night (Make a grilled turkey and avocado sandwich! If it helps you grow your comfort in the kitchen, make ‘repeat’ meals with minor variations.)
Use your senses – turn on some music that makes you happy and adjust the lighting that puts you in the mood you want for that meal (and get some energy flowing!)
Invite someone in the kitchen to join you! (I always advocate for more multiple people in the kitchen…why should one person have all the fun?)
Let yourself feel good and enjoy the experience (regardless if everything goes smoothly or not!)
I hope the next time you are thinking about preparing a meal that you remember my tips, and start feeling how much you can enjoy this activity — and forget the rest about having ‘skills’. Think about my story about swimming and “dive in”! This fresh perspective could make all the difference in your shared-meal experiences (and by the way, relaxing about your current skills will help you naturally get better with time, if that’s important to you.)
If you’d like to learn more about how to rejuvenate your shared meals, check out my website.
P.S. Write me and let me know if my tips helped you – I’d love to hear from you!