Kitchen Calm: Do you look nothing like the person in this picture when you cook?

Written By: Barb Sheldon, MA, CHNC

Ok, the holidays are upon us, and it is, of course, my greatest hope that if I came over to your house this season, I’d find you in the kitchen, amongst the cozy smells of a pot of something cinnamonny simmering away on the stove while you calmly dice figs or cranberries like the Barefoot Contessa . Um, what’s that you say? Not in a thousand garland-trimmed years? You don’t have the energy, the inclination, or even the desire to spend a Sunday chopping dates for a Yule Log?

Hm. Fair enough.

And while I totally get it, I also secretly hope that you will put on your denim shirt like Ina Garten or at least the very well-meaning Jennifer Garner (have you ever watched her Pretend Cooking Show on IG? It’s the most joyful thing ever! And it gives me hope for all of us. Thanks for never being or trying to be perfect, Jenn!) and at least try to cook something cozy for yourself or those you love.

One thing my students have told me time and time again over years of cooking classes is this: their kitchens are a place of stress. They feel chaotic, and cooking itself takes precious energy they do not have.

I want to change that for you. I really do. Here’s how.

First, if you think like a chef, you would know that kitchen counters are not a place for decorative tchotchke, and kitchen drawers are not really a place for things like electricity bills and a thousand pens, elastics, and tiny random toys.

The kitchen is a place that should be simple, that should bring you joy, and that helps you do the task of cooking with ease.

Chefs know that the less they have to move around the better. It saves energy and it saves time. And we also know that we only need the basic tools to do our job right. No one needs seven plastic spatulas and a weird as-seen-on-tv device that is made to cut only one random vegetable.

So, before the holiday guests descend, take a moment. And do this:

  1. Stand in your kitchen. Make a cup of mint tea, and breathe.
  2. Think logically about where you cook, and how you might keep an organized kitchen. Your stove and the area you do your chopping should be close to each other. And your tools should be close to this area, too. So, without moving from your workspace, ask yourself if you can reach your knife (see my knife blog to answer the question you just asked out loud about what type of knives you should have). Is your cutting board nearby? Are your mise-en-place bowls close? Do you have a comfy mat under your feet to avoid fatigue?
  3. Start to do a drawer edit. Two of everything is usually more than enough. So, choose your most high quality spatulas, wooden spoons, tongs, whisks etc, and Marie Kondo the rest. This will help you keep your kitchen organized and clean moving forward, too
  4. Can you reach your salts, spices, and oils? Or are they on the other side of the kitchen?  ** PRO TIP: spices and fats have fragile oils that can be damaged by heat or light so keep them close, but not too close...

Do you see where I am going with this? Cooking should be simple, straightforward, and joyful. If it’s not, make it so. Or let me help you. Book in a session with me online and I will help you organize your kitchen! Let’s cook and eat and bring JOY to ourselves and our loved ones this holiday season. I'm grateful for the opportunity to cook good food, and share it with those I love. I hope you are too. Happy Holidays!

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