For some, cooking is a chore. Perhaps the fear of failure is overwhelming. Or the entire process is tedious. There are many ways to make cooking fun for oneself and the family. One way — for some — is to build a meal around a theme. (Not toga). Use the meal to develop a story. Or vice versa. For instance:
Lower East Side Manhattan, 1910. You’re a recent Jewish Russian immigrant who doesn’t speak English living in a 400 sf one bedroom tenement with spouse and 6 children. What do you serve for dinner on Saturday?
1943, occupied Paris. You own a bistro. You’re the daughter of a French spy in Vichy government. Your father has instructed you to seduce a certain German officer who frequents your business. Serve him a special meal that will get him to reveal to you state secrets. The future of your nation depends on you.
It’s 1618. You’re a cook travelling on Silk Road, returning home to Milan with spices purchased along the way. What are some of the meals you serve the entourage?
1983, in a maximum security prison near Bakersfield. You’re the prison cook. Final meal for some dude who will be served his final meal tomorrow. Sentenced to death for gruesome murder of a family. What does he request as his final meal?
Your great, great, great, great, great, granddaughter is getting married. You don’t like the person she’s going to marry. You’ve been reincarnated as a cook assigned to cater her wedding meal. What does your subconscious tell you to make so that it communicates your disapproval of this match? Or how do you jinx the wedding with the meal? Be subtle, don’t just trash the meal. You are, after all, a professional.
The point is to make a meal that will to take you to a different space and place. Doing so will you force you to learn how to work with constraints. Constraints make cooking fun and one a better cook, not the abundance of ingredients and availability of latest gadgets. Cooking this way will help one better appreciate what cooks past and present, from different places, do to feed themselves and others. And it’ll help one understand the psychology of eating and feeding, how what we eat shapes our identity and defines who we are.