It's easy to get into a cooking rut when you cook mainly for yourself. Of course it's also easy to get into one when you cook for your family or roommates, but it's far more likely for things to get shaken up in a larger household. Someone will take a trip and discover a new cuisine, for example, or develop an allergy or aversion, or come home with a recipe after a night at a new restaurant. But when you're single, it's all on you to keep it new and fresh in the kitchen, and that can be a challenge. Read on for seven ways to introduce new ways of cooking and thinking about food. (And yes, these tips will work for non-single households as well!) Here are a few things that I do to keep it fresh and recapture my mojo in a solo kitchen:
1. Pick up something new.
Perhaps not every week, but several times a month I purchase an item that I'm not familiar with at the grocery store. This can be a spice, a kind of fish, or a new grain. Once home, the amazing internets provide cooking information and suddenly I'm at the stove and in the thrill of uncharted territory.
2. Try something you hate.
Sometimes we carry the notion that we dislike a food from an unhappy incident in the past. But if we give it a try today, we might discover that we've outgrown the dislike and are pleasantly rewarded with a new, delicious food to love.
3. Go to the library.
Cookbooks are expensive and they take up a lot of shelf space so we often don't experiment when it comes unfamiliar cuisines. The library is a perfect place to explore and discover recipes and cuisines that are new to you. If you find that you are using several recipes from a book or that you've renewed the cookbook twice and cannot bear to return it, then perhaps you can invest in your own copy.
4. Have people over to dinner. Often.
Cooking for others always broadens our horizons, requiring us to stretch beyond our comfort zone. If you've shied away from inviting your friend with an allergy to dinner because you didn't know how to cook for her, then read up on what's needed and enjoy the challenge of providing a meal utterly free of that ingredient.
5. Join (or start) a cooking club.
This can be organized in several ways but the basic premise is that people gather around once a month to share food, recipes, ingredients.
6. Take a cooking class or, if you're a crackerjack cook, offer to teach one.
There are many places besides fancy cooking schools to teach and learn these days. Try community centers, farmers markets, shelters, churches. Teaching or learning, either way your life will be richer.
There's nothing like traveling to bring new tastes into our lives. If you cannot afford to go away, then visit the closest big city and explore all the ethnic neighborhoods. Or if you live in a city, try visiting a new neighborhood every weekend, with the ambition to try several new-to-you dishes. Most importantly, visit a grocery store and apply suggestion #1 (above).
What do you do to keep it fresh in your kitchen? What do you do when you fall into a cooking rut and can't get out? And finally, is there a particular dish or ingredient that has single-handedly given you your cooking mojo and excitement back?
Related: Cooking for One: Eating Alone
(Image: Leela Cyd Ross)