Sometimes when I'm alone in the kitchen, I put on my headphones and listen to a couple of the podcasts that relentlessly pile up in my queue. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction from using up the last of the carrots from the back of the crisper drawer while knocking off a couple of episodes of Good Food or The Moth. Very economical. Except when I get distracted by a riveting story and botch up a recipe. (Most recent example: forgetting the espresso powder in the mocha buttercream. Oy.) So podcasts are only for those simple, mindless dishes like potato leek soup or making a stock.Music, too, can often be a choice for how it harmonizes with my actions and creates a flow of activity that is pleasant and energizing. It's fun to pair music with certain kitchen activities: kneading bread to something grand and classical, chopping great piles of onions to 70's ska/dub rhythms, or maybe a little gypsy jazz for frosting a cake. One thing I never do is watch TV because, well, one thing I never do is watch TV but I know a few people who get caught up with the news while making dinner.
But sometimes I want nothing more than silence and the singular tasking of just cooking. I don't want to be distracted or blended with another activity. I just want the straight up, plain old pleasure of cooking with nothing extra added in. There's something about focusing on one task with all my heart and soul that satisfies in a way that is hard to beat.
And the truth is, the kitchen is never completely silent. The thwack of the knife, the scrunch from a head of lettuce being torn from it's core, the sizzle and pop of a skillet full of bacon create a sweet, sometimes amusing, soundtrack. Throw in the hum of the refrigerator and the occasional birdsong or dog bark from the open window and things can get almost raucous.
So once in a while it's good to just do one thing without distraction and let the full engagement in the activity completely fill you up. Especially when the task at hand elicits pleasure and satisfaction. Not to mention a tablespoon of espresso powder.