Springtime is tough for home cooks. This is non-intuitive; after all, the markets! Ramps! Asparagus! Green good things all of a sudden! There's a lot going on, but for many of us, those exciting little bits of produce don't really show up until mid-May, leaving us bored and tired of our winter cooking routines. I don't know what it is about springtime, but I find my cooking motivation dropping off. What about you? Do you experience this?
The other thing about spring is that it's full of distractions. I have a lot of travel coming up, with all the life disruption that travel brings. There are extra social commitments — bridal showers, graduation parties, weddings. I feel busy and a little stretched. I tend to cook the most when I feel relaxed, like I have a whole evening in.
And then of course there's the weather. I don't really want to spend three hours cooking on a gorgeous May evening; I want to get out in the garden or take a walk. Cooking, this time of year, gets simpler and simpler; I roast a chicken or a steak and make a salad and leave it at that. Or, you know, get takeout.
We know that many of you lose interest in cooking in the spring, too (we always have a traffic slump this time of year — fewer people searching for recipes and cooking lessons seems to be the reason). But this is a shame because spring is also one of the greatest times to cook, with all those aforementioned fresh things making their way to market, and longer, lighter evenings to while away at the table over a glass of wine and a good dinner.
Here are three things I tell myself when in that springtime slump:
- Clean the pantry (or just one drawer): Sometimes I can trace reluctance to cook back to the state of my kitchen. A season of winter cooking means crumbs and grease, and corners that really need a spring cleaning. I've been tackling one drawer at a time, wiping down the baking canisters and vacuuming out crumbs. It's amazing how much energy this inserts into the kitchen.
- Pick just one new food to try: This is an old trick, but it always works for me. I go to the store and look for a vegetable or fruit I haven't cooked in a while, and bring it home. The exploration of something new is a good way back into inspiration.
- Invite people over: I've been busy and stressed these days, which means that the last thing I want to do is invite people over to dinner. But I've found that doing it anyway helps reorient me away from work and back to friendships.
Do you get the springtime blues in the kitchen? How do you deal with them? Do you scale back on cooking until fall rolls around? Or do you find fresh inspiration with the season?
(Images: Emily Ho)