I've always enjoyed cooking. But running a startup has made it hard to find the extra time to enjoy cooking like I used to. That and where we live now, there isn't a grocery store in easy walking distance. (Living where we live and driving to the grocery store isn't a great solution).
Cooking for me has usually been: let's plan a few meals, then plan a list, then go get all that stuff on that list to make the recipe exactly like it says. But now that it's so much harder to go to the grocery store, the planning step gets longer and even less fun.
So for 2010, I was fooling with the idea of only cooking meals with ingredients that I either have luckily from some random trip to a grocery store or farmers market + whatever I can buy in a walking distance from me from places like Walgreens and 7-11. My 7-11 and Walgreens are loaded with food that you might not notice in their grocery sections.
There is a treasure trove of stuff to be found in things they carry that can be substituted into recipes.
I'm finding adding this constraint to my cooking has actually liberated me.
With fewer options, there's less planning, more doing. With fewer options, now we get to be creative. A great example of this was last night's dinner.
I've been really digging mole sauce lately. Mole is basically a Mexican sauce that has chocolate as an ingredient. I also really love Cadbury Mini Eggs, which are prevalent now around Easter.
I decided "wouldn't it be great if my mole sauce was composed of Cadbury Mini Eggs"?
Looks great. Only problem is, I don't have garlic or onions or chicken stock or diced tomatoes or peppers :)
Is this a problem? Not with my new line of cooking. What has tomatoes and garlic and onions and liquid already in it?
Pasta sauce! And that's easily findable at Walgreens and 7-11.
So I took this recipe and just didn't add the stuff I didn't have. Instead I used a bunch of pasta sauce. And for the chocolate I took those Cadbury Mini Eggs in a plastic back and put a rolling pin on them to get them to meltable pieces.
The whole time doing this, I knew that this could be a disaster. I knew that we might have to fall back and eat plan B. But I'm never going to know unless I try.
Luckily for me, it turned out great! Here's a photo of the result.
This was just another example of encountering two very important things in my life.
You need to be willing to experience failure to enjoy the rewards of experimentation.
Also, you can dramatically (and paradoxically) expand your mind, expand your experiences, by embracing your constraints.