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Therapeutic Kitchen Tasks


lannie
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In the kitchen, there are some tasks that have an almost Zen-like effect on me, being more like therapy than a chore.

I just cut up a pineapple the way my grandma used to do: slice off the outer skin, cut out the individual round 'eyes' in a cool spiral fashion, slice into long wedges, and then, chop into bite-sized bits. It was such a soothing task - putting me into some kind of zone....... :blink:

Other therapeutic tasks include wrapping wonton, rolling chocolate truffles, sectioning grapefruit, and kneading dough.

What kitchen tasks, if any, get you into the zone?

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Virtually everything I do in the kitchen is therapeutic to me. I love cutting stuff up (butchering, dicing, you name it), in particular. But... honestly, I can't think of anything that I don't enjoy doing that involves food.

Emptying the dish washer, now that sucks.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Tourneing potatoes.

No really.

Pat

My brother-in-law and I do this together every Christmas. Every year, we wonder why everyone flees the kitchen when we mention this task. We have a wonderful time together, solving the problems of the world, our lives.

I also really like cleaning off the counters. Wiping, drying, getting them gleaming and devoid of little bits of stuff (be they kid treasures or food ick). Looking clean, sleek and like they should be in a magazine.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Smoking stuff, definately, or baking. There is just something awesome about putting something random into a device and then hours later getting this luscious result...

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Virtually everything I do in the kitchen is therapeutic to me. I love cutting stuff up (butchering, dicing, you name it), in particular. But... honestly, I can't think of anything that I don't enjoy doing that involves food.

Emptying the dish washer, now that sucks.

Ditto

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Putting out pastry dough, whether it's Nana's basic Crisco or multilayered puff pastry involving frozen butter. I've been doing this for so many years that I am pretty much a dab hand at dough. A little concentration, the rubbing of fat into flour with my fingertips, the careful measureng of water, the gathering up...

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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For me it's the slow tasks. An all-day braise, or something simmering for hours in the crockpot, or dough rising overnight in the fridge, projects that take all day or even a couple of days to complete.

And grilling over charcoal is always a thrill. I used to would have said kneading dough, but now my doughs tend to be slack and kneaded with a dough hook, so I usually don't get that tactile rush.

Another weird one. I love seasoning. That iterative process of tiny taste, add salt, repeat until perfect, is a ritual that I really enjoy.

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If I am working on a new recipe, I get into total concentration. I may get out a dozen or more books and research ideas and techniques. Then I get into planning out the executuion.

The next "zone" is chopping. I think about the geometry of the fruit or vegetable and figure out the best way to approach it. I remember being particularly thrilled when someone here showed how to use a quarter of an onion to do a traditional dice instead of trying to make those awkward horizontal cuts that chefs always show you. Way back before mangoes were everywhere, I figured out how to slice and dice them. I felt so accomplished. Then, when chefs on TV started showing "my" technique, I did a happy dance.

Another zone is doing a long project. I actually told a friend once that I couldn't go to a movie with her because I had to reduce my beef stock. :wacko: She offered to refer me to a good therapist. :laugh:

Things I hate:

Making salad, oddly enough. I have no clue why.

Emptying the dishwasher. That one is really dumb. It takes all of 5 minutes. I . . . just . . . can't . . . want . . . to . . . do . . . it. Loading is fine. That is another exercise in geometry.

Cooking anything fast. Grilling and a fast saute are particularly unsatisfying to me. There is even a bit of stress involved. I eat steak at a good steak house.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I also love the chopping, and I am really into the 'flip'. I flip sauteed vegetables or what ever. Anything in a saute pan. It's cool, impressive to people who can't do it, although if I can do it, anyone can. I feel so....in control that I can flip my pan and go on with what I'm doing without giving it another thought. It's almost like a zone that I don't realize I'm in.

Stop Family Violence

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I am always envious of "the flip." I have that on my list of 2005 resolutions to perfect the technique. It would be so satisfying to be able to do that, even if no one is around to be amazed. :laugh:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The moment of deglazing. It's somehow reassuring to me. All the little burned and stuck bits still count and will count.

I also love to make dough, pasta, jiaozi, or tortilla dough, any kind of dough, really. Once it's really done, once it finally surrenders, compliments me with its resilience, sooths me, bows to me, and then smooths around or in between to make whatever it does, it's very fulfilling. In the way it finally holds things in. High quality for the effort. Results of work.

I love plating. I love saving out two teaspoons of a little something and putting it in a little box, envisioning it as an accent later, and having choices. I love delicately picking up things with chopsticks and placing things just so just before it goes out to the table.

I love funneling things into bottles. Stocks, reductions, sauce, oils going into dispensers, my spice mixes into the jars that fit my racks, etc. The funnel is my friend. I have them in various shapes and sizes.

Actual stock making is a mere task set in an evening or an afternoon of cooking, it's simmering does not involve me to any large degree. When it has been degreased and is a flawless product ready to funnel into a bottle is when I mentally engage with it. Degreasing used to be a chore but now I don't mind, it means the stock is ready in my mind. I don't feel equipped without good stock ready to use. It's a necessity.

I have always liked to use the knife, and dicing a mirepoix was a favorite speaking of theraputic tasks, for a long time. My husband's friends all thought I was a bit odd when we came to visit the first time, me with my own knife. My Japanese cleaver is the multitasker, it's what I usually travel with. You can split a crab's hard shell in two with it just as well as delicate matchstick slicing. I have always thought it perfectly normal; you carry your knife, just in case someone is not equipped, like you'd carry toothpaste, hairbrush, etc. I didn't know these people. How am I supposed to know whether they have sharp knives in the house? I guess it can seem a bit odd. Anyway they know me now and are not afraid.

A couple of weeks ago I deboned a rabbit and made rouleaux. It was a task that gave me great joy. Half of the pleasure is having a good knife to do it with. The different parts of the rabbit are all slightly different colors when you roll them around a stuffing and then slice it across. What a revelation.

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I am always envious of "the flip." I have that on my list of 2005 resolutions to perfect the technique. It would be so satisfying to be able to do that, even if no one is around to be amazed.  :laugh:

I too, have been unable to master the "flip". Sigh.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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The ritual of repetition in the kitchen puts me in a zone...it could be working with filo, or preparing very small tart shells and then stuffing them. I turn on the task lighting only, put on music I enjoy and go to it. Hours later I have pans and pans of little morsels to add to the freezer.

I also really really enjoy cleaning the oven or the refrigerator.

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I also like the slow stuff. Having something on the stove, simmering away for hours, checking in on it regularly, and watching textures and flavors change.

Also baking. Making pastry. Bread dough.

Actually, anything that changes texture while you're working on it - like pastry, whipping eggwhites, whipping cream, making mayonaise. Sooo satisfying.

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Shaping dough, particularly small rolls, buns. I too go into a sort of fugue state where I am operating on automatic pilot and I don't have to think about the task because I have done it so many times that my hands know what to do without consciously directing them. Bow ties, pretzels, baby braids or twists, things I learned in baking school nearly a half century ago, all take shape under my hands as I zonk off into some other level of consciousness to the point that I don't hear the phone or even my housekeeper or guests when they speak to me.

Many times I have solved problems that have been bugging me, during these periods of introspection. I have at times startled people around me by yelling, "Hey! I just realized something, etc., etc., etc.," and begin talking about my idea.

Sometimes I look around and realize no one has any idea about my subject because the entire event has taken place inside my head.

At times like that I think that I really should have a video camera recording what is going on in the kitchen. Some of these would be a natural for "The Funniest Video" shows.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Cooking things that I have made so often it is second nature, so that I don't have to refer to a recipe or really even measure anything.

Making yeast dough. There's just something about that process that is relaxing, maybe because it is something our species has done for ages.

Making gravy or anything else that thickens. I find it satisfying to see things come together and get all thick and comfort-food-y.

As for emptying the dishwasher, I was fortunate enough to marry the one person in the world who enjoys emptying the dishwasher. :smile:

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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Although we're discussing kitchen tasks that are therapeutic, we're talking about that in the emotional sense. However, some are physically therapeutic as well.

My mother-in-law was in a car accident when she was in her late teens and injured her wrist badly. The physician told her that the best therapy for her would be to knead bread. Fifty years later, she still bakes bread regularly and if she doesn't, her wrist starts to throb. And as we all know, the smell of freshly baked bread is about as emotionally therapeutic as anything else!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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making bread. i actually set a timer so i will have some sort of an idea how long i have been kneading.

also washing dishes. i love to do them and always in the same way as i learned as a kid. i wash, rinse, look out my window, think.... i love it.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I like working with my hands. And my hands do show that they've been worked. I think that this personality trait is a must for professional cooks. I like to touch, my hands get "itchy" if I don't work them enough.

I like trimming vegetables, especially a potato tourne. It's very relaxing and meditative for me. In the background a simmering stock...

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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washing rice!

For persian rice you first sort through the dry rice grains for any stones/blemished grains, then you wash the rice rinsing & swirling it around carefully 7 full times before you can cook it. There's something so relaxing about the process, and really satisfying knowing that all that work will yeild perfect separate delicate slightly sweet/nutty grains of goodness (and oh yeah, probably go under an AMAZING stew)

I'm also keen on slicing things in bulk on my mandoline, after a bit you get a great rythm going, but with that you have to be careful not to go TOO far into the zone :laugh:

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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I really enjoy the process of making the kind of cookies where you have to make little balls. You know, you grab a lump and turn it into a neat little sphere and put it on the baking sheet. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I find it very relaxing.

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