All around the world the weekend is held up to be the shining beacon beckoning to you from the grind of the working week. Families reunite, friends hit the town and for those of us who often prefer a quieter existence, it promises whole days to wile away in our kitchens. The weekends are special for me because it is usually the only time in the week when I choose to cook. From Monday to Friday, I cook out of necessity. I still enjoy it, but there is always that hidden agenda – I need to feed my partner and I and I need to do it quickly. Dishes that need to bubble away, or render down, or have too many components are simply not considered. Cooking is a solo activity for me and I know that after a long day in the office I’d much rather spend the time with Ben. So when the weekend finally comes around, I put into place all those plans I’ve day dreamed about and researched during the week.
I think about food almost constantly. I don’t think this is unusual. Most of us look forward to the first coffee of the day, eagerly await for lunch and wonder what we’ll be having for dinner. My only excess is in thinking about what we’ll be eating for dinner for the whole week and how I can challenge myself with new recipes. I could happily spend an entire afternoon browsing through a book store’s collection of cookbooks or researching the best recipe for oatmeal cookies. More and more chefs are sharing their knowledge and it’s all so easy to find what you need on the internet. From recipes to ‘how to’ guides, to tips on what’s in season and tutorials you can watch, there seems little excuse not to be inspired. Of course, it’s not all about quantity, so I have my favourite sites I like to visit where I know the recipes are tested and the all important user ratings are present. Even then, there’s a lot of information out there. I choose what to cook based on three criteria: What I feel like eating, what I would like to learn and cost.
What I feel like eating
What do you feel like eating? This is not always an easy question to answer. Have you ever asked someone what they would like for dinner and had them return you a blank look or a thoughtless ‘anything’? Then there are times where answer is hopeful rather than helpful and you have to reiterate that ‘ice cream’ is not a valid answer. To get around this, I search for my own inspiration. What have I been craving, what haven’t I had in a while and so basically, what do I want to eat? And I can tell you – it’s rare when I don’t have an answer!
When looking for ideas, browsing the internet or watching cooking shows usually does the trick but more often I find myself remembering what I my mother used to cook when I was younger. And then, before I know it, I’ve called her up asking for the recipe.
What do I want to learn
Often what I want to eat is accompanied by a skill I haven’t yet mastered. It could be anything from refining my spaghetti bolognese to making my own pastry or using a new ingredient. These challenges are what keep me interested in cooking. Reading about or watching what the experts do and experimenting in your own kitchen is all part of the fun and you can learn a lot along the way. You can also begin to understand your and your kitchen’s limitations which is important knowledge to have when choosing recipes.
This is probably the most important consideration for me. It is a reality check on my aspirations but one, I think, that most of us have inbuilt. Let’s face it, there are very few people out there who do not live by a budget. If it’s not financially feasible, then we either make sacrifices or give up the idea. For me, the same applies to cooking. I’m not just looking to put a tasty meal on the table at the end of the day, I need to know that it is value for money. This could mean eating what’s in season, choosing my brands carefully or making what I can from scratch. Cooking is an expensive hobby so it can be useful to know what ingredients cost and where to source the best quality and prices.