As an obsessed eater, my cooking choices are almost always driven by what I feel like eating. Whether it’s a new favourite from the latest restaurant, or comforting dishes from my childhood, my stomach and tastebuds has never led me down the wrong path when it comes to cooking.
But sometimes I get bored, and my stomach remains rebelliously silent. And when my dinners start looking the same week after week, I get into a food schlump, and all the joy starts getting sapped from my meals.
It’s at these times when it’s so important to have an arsenal of backup food inspiration, to shake off the doldrums of stale repetitive food. This is how I cook, when I don’t know what to eat.
Re-create cooking show challenges
Reality cooking competitions can be a source of stress, or a source of inspiration. In times of desperation, I try to recreate challenge scenarios in my own kitchen, and see what I’d come up with under the conditions. Success or not, it always leads me to a treasure trove of inspiration and new ideas. Of course, you don’t also need sock puppet judges discussing your final dish.
What? I get bored sometimes.
Explore a new grocery store in a new suburb
Australia is an amazing salad bar of cultural influences, and sometimes there’s nothing more inspirational than a fresh, new ingredient that you’ve never tasted, seen, or even know the name of. Depending on the shop, the staff can be amazingly helpful with suggestions, with some even passing on full recipes with detailed eating instructions.
There are some fantastic Japanese shops near Artamon station, or you could try Maruyu if you don’t feel like travelling out of the city. Ryde, Hornsby and Auburn are great for Middle Eastern and Persian grocers, with some offering a selection of pastries and cured meats that are ready-to-eat! If you are absolutely hooked on Hoy Pinoy like I am, you might want to have a gander at Manila Mart in West Ryde, for your filipino food needs.
Rediscover your appliances
Sometimes, I google things like “Things to do with your rice cooker”, or “interesting pressure cooker recipes”, just to see if something interesting pops up. Even if it’s just a ghost of an idea, it can help spark some inspiration that will get you out of your food schlump!
Or give you appliance-envy, but we can deal with that later.
Watch Some Netflix
Besides stocking majorly popular Tv shows and movies, Netflix has some killer food shows as well. I do love me some No Reservations – there’s just something about Anthony Bourdain’s acerbic wit that gets me feeling good about food again. I love how he delves into how the locals eat, and those dishes, together with an entertaining – and sometimes hilarious – deep dive into traditional local practices are a fantastic source of inspiration when you’re facing an empty pot and cook’s block.
Otherwise, I do also really enjoy Mind of a Chef – Season 1 is especially good if you are a sinophile, like I am.
No Netflix? That’s okay. The video podcast of Harvard’s Science and Cooking series of lectures is also crazy inspiring, if I’m in a particularly science-y mood.
Get some visual inspiration
Sometimes, all you need to get your food mojo going like a little bit of food porn. And for that, there’s Pinterest, Instagram, and if you’re feeling old school, cookbooks. I don’t always look at the recipes, even – sometimes a pretty picture of food can spark my imagination enough to try something new.
Have you gotten a severe case of the cooking blues? How do you get around it?