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Great Expectations

January 12, 2012 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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I had an epiphany this week regarding why I don't like to cook. Someone asked me if I have a favourite dish to bring to a potluck and the answer was ‘no'. I have favourite dishes to eat, just not favourite dishes to cook for others. The thought that anyone would have a favourite dish to make actually seems absurd to me. Finally, it dawned on me.

My cooking role models growing up were my grandmother and my mother.

My grandmother was a traditional farmer's wife and was lovingly referred to as a "food factory" by my grandfather who would show up, unannounced, with 10-15 other farmers and my grandmother would prepare a dinner in less than 30 minutes to satisfy the hungry crowd. My grandmother was about speed and volume but still produced quality.

My mother is a Martha Stewart type. Her food could pose for a picture on the cover of a magazine. When dinner is served at my parent's house, everyone marvels at how the food is both delicious and beautiful, to which my mom replies "Oh, I just saw this recipe and thought it looked good". My mom and grandma (just by being themselves) have created a huge amount of (self-inflicted) expectation and this is the reason why my mom still cooks all of my family's important meals.

Now I work closely with individuals who get immense pleasure from discussing their kitchen successes and failures in a level of detail that I find excruciating. I have friends whose identity is wrapped up in the food they serve. In an age of "the foodie", where do people like me fit in? Is it ok to enjoy food but not every detail of how it came onto your plate?

Yes, yes it is!

What I realized is that I can remove this pressure from myself to produce a culinary work of art to share with friends or family. Instead, I can embrace just cooking something made with love using ingredients that are familiar, well-liked and comforting. This makes me feel good about myself and I enjoy doing it.

Turns out I do have a recipe I can make for a potluck next week. I have quite a few.

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Comments (3)


Posted on Saturday January 14, 2012 a 12:06pm

I like to cook for my friends but, it's casual. I don't talk about it all of the time...they know I enjoy it though. They like to come over to watch the game and they know there's always going to be something to eat. I make great nachos and they like the chili that I cook too.


Posted on Sunday January 15, 2012 a 5:38pm

We like to have friends over for a meal. I find if I prepare a dish or two the day before, it takes the pressure off me getting the food cooked and on the table in time.


Posted on Sunday January 15, 2012 a 8:28pm

I get my inspiration from my grandmother too, and also contemporary cooks like Martha Stewart and other sources. Inspiration is a big part of my meal planning.


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