When it comes to cooking, I love having a sense of freedom. When you force me to cook a certain dish, there are preconceived expectations. I do not like having to perform or cook towards the expectations of anyone, including myself. Whether it is making a dough or batter, cooking, or even completing an assignment, I try to do this with a freeform style. There is something about being improvisational that works so well for me in the kitchen. A lot of it comes with experience. Since I am incredibly familiar with how ingredients work, I can make a lot of different techniques and flavors come together in dish concepts that do sound or taste good. For me, any ingredient has the potential to become a plethora of things. So I have the freedom to transform the ingredient to whatever I feel like. This sense of being freeform, it is probably one of my favorite habits.
When you are not weighed down by expectations and judgement, being yourself becomes a possibility. I think that this sort of freeform style I developed in my cooking, it is interesting, given how neurotic I am in other outlets of my life. When I was a culinary instructor, we had to teach certain dishes, prepare them in a certain way, and we had no freedom. Because of that, I felt trapped. I used cooking to get away from my stress, but then when my stress-reliever became the main source of it, I did not know where else I could turn to. Whenever I saw my chef knives, I would have a panic attack. I did understand why my knives scared me so much. At first, I thought it was because I had an urge to cut myself with them. But in reality, my knives were just a reminder of work. How much I detested being held to standards, and how I was under the constant scrutiny of others. It was too much for me to handle on an emotional level.
Normally, if I made a mistake in the kitchen, I could recover. Oh, I burned a cake. Well, I can trim off the burnt bits, and take the remainder, re-bake it, and create biscotti. I overcooked my steak. Chop it up, braise it, and then I can make a stew. But when I was a culinary instructor, I had no such freedom. The students needed to be taught something, needed to be taught how to do it the classic way, and if I made a mistake, I would get threatened and yelled at by it. My boss engraved in me that failure equated to ridicule and that I should be ashamed of my failures, not embracing of them. It ruined my self confidence and my love for cooking for the longest time. I could not have the creative freedom and flexibility that I normally had. Being so stiff and rigid, feeling like I was performing a high-wire act every time I held a knife, wore my chef whites, it was scary.
Even when I was a line cook, I never was held to that sort of standard. If I made a mistake, it was fine. We could always find a way to rectify it. But when I was teaching others at the school, their tuition was going into me passing down the knowledge of classic cooking correctly. Even when I teach cooking lessons on my own time, I was not felt to that much pressure. I do have high standards and always strive to make my food taste and look good. But I refuse to let others dictate my vision or my passion. Unfortunately, that is what happened at my old job. I lost my freedom and it was what spiraled me into depression and anxiety. Being yelled at for things I did not do, being expected to be perfect and when I am obviously not, being reprimanded and verbally abused. I know now, do not let yourself stay in that sort of environment. Being in the line of constant scrutiny, it is not a life worth living. Live a life where you are free to do and act however you want.