Self-tests, Numbers and Cooking – Oh My!

A flurry of challenges filled my brain last week: cooking every meal for a week, not buying Starbucks for 30 days, writing 750 words every morning for a month, having a dinner party for six, going to the gym three days a week…it goes on and on. I’m not entirely sure why these little challenges have popped into my head. Perhaps it’s because another year is coming to a close, but I’m interested to see if I’m up for the challenge. My hope is to get one or two of them completed over the next couple of months.

I came across my first challenge while reading a college student’s blog. He spent time every day writing 750 words to help generate ideas. This process isn’t new. He got the idea from one of his English professors. We wrote 250 words every day in a journal for a month when I was in school. But, as I read this kid’s post, something in my head sparked. I thought, not only would this stimulate creativity but it may create a meaningful blog post. So, I’ve put myself to the test.

Challenge #1: write for 30 days, everyday. I’m hoping, after some practice, this process will create flow” – that sensation where you’re so in tune with what’s going on, time escapes you and you feel completely immersed in the process (see my post on Elizabeth Gilbert). I’m also hoping to improve my writing skills. If anything, I’ll perform a brain dump each day.

Challenge #2: Cook all my meals for seven days. And by “cook” I mean actually prepare a meal – marinating meat, prepping vegetables and utilizing cookware – not throwing a manufactured frozen dinner in the microwave. (Have you ever read the ingredients on processed food?) Most of you are probably thinking, “what’s the big deal about that?” For me, it’s a big deal. I can cook but always complain how short I am on time or how cooking for a ‘party of one’ isn’t practical. I’m busy, single and always on the go. I’m out of practice when planning for something like this. Not to mention, I’m interested to see how it affects my wallet.

If Rachel Ray can throw a meal together in 30 minutes, I can too. It’s been so long since I’ve explored my culinary skills but, more importantly, it provides me with a sense of accomplishment. I’m amazed at how easy it is to take an hour of your day and create something you can instantly enjoy.

Second, I haven’t been keeping track of what I’ve been eating. Right now, all I know is that I eat too much Mexican food and too many sandwiches. I ate a salad last night for the first time in a week – that I made – and felt a little better for doing so.

Finally, I find it’s more common for busy, single thirty-somethings to cook more on the weekends (if at all) than they do during the week. I wasn’t necessarily thrilled by this idea. I’m guilty of it. I eat out more than I eat in. Then I complain about being chunky, feel bloated because of the salt intake and hate myself because I’ve eaten more carbs in a week than some people do in a month.

I find it ironic that our culture so tight on time that we can’t even cook for ourselves? Our parents (or at least mine) cooked every night. We had family dinners. All of our neighbors cooked. And, it was actually a treat to go to a restaurant! Now, it’s the other way around. I’m lucky if I throw something together once a week.

Cooking reminds me of food and food always reminds me of corn. You’ll know why after you read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Pollan is an award winning author and journalist, who now teaches at Stanford. If you haven’t read this, or any of his other books, you should. I picked Dilemma up about five years ago, when I needed to cover a talk Pollan gave at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum. I learned so much about sustainable food systems and would encourage anyone to read it. You’d be surprised what you’re putting in your body. Don’t get me wrong, the book’s not necessarily a gross overview of how food is made. Rather, it answers the question, “where does grocery store food come from?” (I also just realized that I was at Stanford two weeks ago, where Pollan teaches, and should have reached out for an interview! Arrgghh! I hate missed opportunities!)

Sorry for the tangent. Now back to the cooking thing….

With anything else, I feel if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll make the time to do it. I stopped by Williams Sonoma yesterday afternoon. I planned a tentative menu and hitting the grocery store today. Of course, I’ll be writing about my little experiment. (1 writing day down, 29 more to go).


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