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Help with a lack of inspiration in the kitchen


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How are you with vitamins? The first thing I thought of when I read your post was, maybe you're low on zinc. Maybe it's not so much that you're bored with food but maybe you're not tasting it as you should? I just looked it up to make sure, and even a mild zinc deficiency can cause taste and/ or smell problems. It might be worth checking into if a physical cause seems like it might be a possible reason for your food boredom.

Edited by JanMcBaker (log)
"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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Hrm. I've gone through periods like this but it's usually tied to my medical condition and the medication I'm on. Baring that (which you'd be better off talking to your dr about) then perhaps trying an cuisine from somewhere you haven't tried before? I went on an Indian cooking spree for awhile and that seemed to awaken my appetite and tastesbud quite a bit. Another time I started only cooking foods from my childhood (I'm Thai so it's a bit different from the normal mac&cheese/chicken nuggets) and that seemed to help. For me I find that spicy food really wakes me out of my funk. Hope this helps. :)

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Probably just a phase. :wink:

Travel does it for me. So many highways still to drive.

Also back to basics. Simple and top quality.

I defy anyone to be bored by a lettuce and tomato sandwich - supermarket white bread or boutique bakery wholegrain bread, iceberg lettuce, mayonnaise (I use Helman's but make your own to help get past the tedium) and perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes - red, juicy and full of flavor from the days of yesteryear.

That should shake you out of your ennui.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I will have to join the crowd and say "travel", preferably to somewhere completely outside your frame of reference. I would have become bored with food long ago myself if I hadn't visited many different places. Wherever I go (especially in Asia!) I discover some new cuisine, cooking technique, or regional specialty I'd never heard about before. Travel is also a great way to liven up your cooking: master a weird regional cuisine most Americans have never heard of, bring back some bizarre ingredients, pick up some local cookbooks, and so on.

And if you can't travel, read. Pick up a cookbook in an unusual cuisine and learn to make everything in it, try restaurants you've overlooked before, whatever it takes.

The cleanse thing might have some merit. I always get excited when I return to the USA from overseas because I can eat things that haven't spread much beyond their homebase (Mexican comes to mind). You could probably do something like that in place.

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First thing: Read Mark Twain's "The Appetite Cure." It's out there on-line. People have had your problem for a long time. (And it's hilarious.)

I've been there. For me, I just simplify. Salads, sandwiches (like the one Holly described above) and soup. It's corn and tomato season;eat lots of both. Keep ambitious cooking and eating to to the minimum.

For me the classic Appetite Cure Meal is lunch at the Zodiac Room at Neiman-Marcus. Very plain and old-fashioned and well executed: beautiful chicken broth and a basket of popovers to start (and they're free) followed by a chicken salad sandwich. Delicate, undemanding Ladies Who Lunch food.

Yeah, travel would be great.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I have been there a few times. Nothing is exciting or compelling. Reading blogs with great food and photos triggers a "yah- whatever" response. I don't want to cook. I start eating simple food because I can't be bothered or nothing is appealing. I can't pinpoint the exact moments of waking up to the joy again, but I do recall that it usually is a fleeting thought like "I have not made a spinach souffle in 15 years" or "after all this time why don't I try that Indian vegetarian cheap lunch buffet". Bottom line is that I just go with the flow and it happens because I truly believe that food and the traditions that surround it are our universal and international language. Let us know how it goes.

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Shalmanese, I just saw a very old post of yours on a cocktail thread in which you said that you liked your drinks fruity and you didn't care for vermouth and it made me think that I might have an answer for you on this thread. A few years ago I started drinking and learning about cocktails - the classic, beautiful, crafted by people who continually stun me with their creativity and knowledge kind - and it completely changed my palate and my appreciation of food. I wonder if this would help your rut. You live in Seattle and have access to some damned good cocktail bars (Zig Zag being my #1 choice here), and I think it's worth a try. I had never really explored the bitter side of my palate until I started drinking cocktails, and my exposure to the complexity of many spirits (rye, gin, rum, vermouth, amari) has truly enhanced my love of food.

At the very least you could have some fun experimenting. Report back!

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Alluded to by others, it is very possible that your boredom with food is just a symptom of something else. I can't remember when you first moved to Seattle, but it could very well be that you're hitting a low point in the culture stress cycle, and it's just a matter of time before you find your way out of it.

Just bide your time till it passes, and until then, eat simply, but healthfully (if you were like me, you'd be eating Costco-sized bags of potato chips for dinner).

edited--darned second conditional!

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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I dunno... I used to work in high end restaurants, and ate great food all the time. But the same thing happened to me - I got bored with it (cooking and eating it), maybe from the excess of it all. Now I love food again, but the food I eat is much simpler and less 'fancy'.

There's a ton of great ethnic restaurants out there, most are cheap, nutritious, and very different. Also, getting away from the restaurant scene really helped bring back my love of food - now instead of getting bored by the excess of it all, I actually enjoy what I eat again...

Also, as a professional, I'd never cook at home. Now, I do cook at home, and always try to cook something I've never done before, often some very foreign stuff. It's humbling, frustrating, but rewarding and fun.

I definitely lost my love for 'haute' cuisine, don't think I'll ever go back to it, but there's a great world of cheap, interesting and tasty food out there. Someone else mentioned it as well, but travel! Somewhere far out preferably...

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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if you were like me, you'd be eating Costco-sized bags of potato chips for dinner

Guilty! The boy at the gas station (yeah I didn't even make it to the supermarket 2 blocks farther down) thought this chick is definitely PMSing when I checked out with a large back of chips, dip, 3 ice cream sandwiches, powdered donuts, and HUGE Pepsi.

I'm not sure which is worse the sugar bomb from the Pepsi I never drink or the salt/carb overload from the chips. Thank God I don't do this often.

*slinks away to digest carb and salt overload*

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  • 1 year later...

When everything in your fridge seems lacklustre or it's sitting bare. When you can't even settle on a cuisine, never mind a dish.

How do you decide what to make? Recipe books? Old faithful recipes that never let you down? Eat out? Roll a dice?

I'm in this predicament (quite a luxurious predicament, I'll admit). So share your solutions!

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Whenever that happens, it seems to be because I have temporary amnesia about what I'm capable of making. I always think, okay, what I need to do is keep a list of dishes I've made that I thought were really good, so I can consult that list when I need inspiration. Then I forget to make the list. So I cook some eggs.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I go to the store and buy something I've never prepared before, snoop through my cookbooks (actually, now I go to Eat Your Books and let the software do it for me), and try to figure out what the heck this thing is. Recent examples for me include nopales, white poppy seeds, coconut powder, and oregano indio.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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One of my main reasons for eating out is to get inspiration but I am afraid these days it is sadly lacking in restaurant dishes. It is ths same right through the price range up to 3 Michelin star, in fact the more expensive the worse it gets. Where are all those delicious sauces we used to get using unusal combinations of ingredients. All you get these days is a smear of some unidentifiably coloured goo with a bit of 'pan roasted' sea bass. :huh:

Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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All good responses. Fat Guy, I was in the same boat - then I made a list! It's food I can make without recourse to any recipe book and know will be good:

Steak and Kidney pudding

French onion soup

Keema peas and aloo ghobi

Masala Dosai

Spaghetti Carbonara

Sausage pasta

Chicken Tikka Masala

Steak and chips

Chicken Tagine

Shepherd's Pie

Chicken Cacciatore

Lasagna

Nasi Goreng

Roast Chicken

Rissotto

Caesar salad

Thing is, kind of like my i tunes library - it's all boring! So it's either blowing the dust off the obscure cook book a la Chris Amirault, or eggs.

Talking of obscure cook books - I recently found an odd one on my shelf called 'The 12 Unexpected Guests Suddenly Arrive For Dinner Greek Cook Book'. It has an excellent recipe for Moussaka which requires 3 days of solidly drinking retsina before you even lift a pan. Inspiration!

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A similar topic exists here, if you want to browse for additional ideas.

And another one here.

Yet another one here.

Boy, there is sure a lot of inspiration there. Thanks for tracking down all those inspiring threads. Remarkable how similar we all can be and how we can all have have similar problems. Sometimes a "rut" is a really comforting routine...

And sometimes it's just a rut.

But as I said in one of those other threads, for me, when I need inspiration, all I have to do is to look through one of my cookbooks. Especially one of my cookbooks with gorgeous photos.

Impossible not to get inspired.

____________________

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm sorta going through this now. I hadn't really thought about it, but I often leaf through cookbooks during meals, discussing stuff with the family. When nothing pops, I dig out a cookbook of a cuisine that I don't make often, haven't tried yet, haven't made in years. Something REALLY different. Like, something I don't even have the staples for, laying around, which will then spark a special grocery trip for different seasonings or whatnot, and everything seems to fall into place after that. It's funny, because this very minute there's a huge colorful book of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine laying on my table, and I think that's where I'm going next.

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I challenge anyone to watch this video and not get inspired!

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I never have that problem because, as embarrassing as this sounds, I think and dream of food almost 24/7 if I can get away with it, and I am always craving something. I used to be embarrassed by this obsession but now I just enjoy it. The trouble is, that I have a full time job and I commute a long way home so I only have the weekends to cook and by then I am in a cooking frenzy.

Really, you have to prepare for these times - stock up on all sorts of exotic ingredients so you can cook whatever you want; visit your favourite butcher; browse through some cookbooks. I keep a "longing to eat" list and roll it through my head until I find the one I want. The list changes with the seasons, so I am busy with my fall list. Whatever you do, don't look in the fridge - that is your past, not your future.

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