Making Cooking Feel Less Like a Chore

Alright I get it. If you had a long day at work, missed your subway and came home running because you are a home-shitter, it can be very tempting to order some “Murgh Tikka Masala” for 13,90 Euros from your trusted hole in the wall Indian “delicacy/speciality” joint. Since the take out service algorithm recognizes your ruthless spending habits, they are nice enough to throw in a small salad for another 2 Euros.

“Ahhh, just over the minimum order value!”

Mate, not only are you fooling the algorithm but you are actually saving money – a pyrrhic victory.

My passion towards cooking outweighs my hate towards delivery/take-out. I am aware of the fact that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for sourcing groceries, experimenting or watching YouTube tutorials on “How to not have a Soggy Beef Wellington”.

Obliterating laziness into oblivion is counterproductive. Here to save the day (and probably your digestive system) I hath yet taken it upon me again to deliver a constructive and condensed guide that shall accompany your cooking endeavor during the 2nd lockdown.

Disclaimer: I did not undergo culinary training so some of the tips may deviate from the quintessential French schools of thought. However, I like to believe I made a successful transitioned from a chicken-broccoli-rice bro to a hobby chef trained by non other than Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. Via YouTube of course, you “Idiot Sandwich”.

1. Mise en Place (fr.)

I am going to make a bold assumption. If you don’t cook the majority of your meals, your room/apartment probably looks like shit too.

Small obstacles will disrupt your workflow, thus it is of utmost importance to practice mise en place i.e. “having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated etc. before you start cooking” (UNL Food)

No, I am not talking about having 40 little perfect bowls to put your ingredients in; looking at you Bon Appétit. But the act of laying out allows you to quickly spot any missing ingredients and make some damage to the inevitable cleaning (more on that later).

Comme ci, comme ça mise en place

Pro Tip: Discard your trash in a bowl on your cooking platform

2. Get the Basics Right

My insights tell me that most of the readers of this blog are academics, thus most should be familiar with the Pareto Principle.

In other words, you will probably spend 80% of your time chopping vegetables. Adding the ingredients to your pan, sautéing etc. will occupy the remaining 20%.

Result: This drastically increases the inhibition threshold (Hemmschwelle), to for example cook a well balanced sauce bolognese instead of a tomato meat soup. Obviously less than ideal sauce bolognese will create a negative feedback loop; no bueno for getting into the habit.

The only logical and economically feasible solution is to identify and streamline these slow processes. I am a practical man, so here are some practical tips.

Dicing Onions

1. Vertical slices

2. Horizontal slice

3. Dice

Total Time: 30s

Chopping Garlic

1. Smack clove with the back of your knife; Peel

2. Dice/Slice

Total Time: 15s

3. Aromatics

Parmesan Cheese, Bacon Bits, Butter, Tomato Paste

Always having these around will elevate even the quickest meals.

Honorable mentions: garlic butter, fish sauce, Maggi, sesame oil

4. Multi-Task

No the pasta doesn’t need you to stir it every 30 seconds. Yes, the world seems to end every time you check your phone, but withstanding the temptation to watch half naked girls begging you to vote for Biden and utilizing the few minutes to clean, saves a huge headache later on. A few guidelines:

1. Dirtiest dishes at the bottom

2. Cutlery First

3. Rinse your non-stick frying pan immediately

Refusing to rinse your pan after use will exacerbate the pain of cleaning up. Immediately after serving your meal, use the remaining heat and water to rinse off the rough bits. Afterwards a simple wipe with a tissue will suffice.

Even if you have the luxury of owning a dish washer in a city, where a parking spot makes more than minimum wage, the dish soap will damage the coating.

5. Jam

No not strawberry jam nor traffic jam. Jam to some tunes, the party is on baby!

Cooking is all about mindset. I am no believer of get “rich quick” nor of “no risk all the fun”, so yes cooking takes time and effort but you just made a nourishing meal to feed non other than yourself. A reason to celebrate.

6. Be Extra af

Congratulations! After following the previous 5 steps you have just graduated from the kindergarten of cooking. You are a big girl/boy now! Let creativity guide you; add that extra drizzle of olive oil, top it off with a squeeze of lemon juice… even if your are cooking an extremely simple meal.

Treat yourself young queens and kings!

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