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All Those Cooking Shows

            I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately (mostly in Hebrew, as language practice) but I haven’t been doing much cooking, to Cricket’s great frustration. I am a messy cook, and as I chop, many pieces of red pepper and carrot and sometimes even chicken land on the floor right in front of her, where she is, conveniently, waiting. Instead, I am microwaving frozen meals, and all she can do is fight with her sister for the leftover sauce in the bowl (Cricket always wins).

“It’s all mine!”

            It’s not that the cooking shows aren’t inspiring. In fact, I feel like I should be making long lists of ingredients to search for, and printing out recipes for Shakshuka with eggplant and Kibbeh, or five kinds of Chummus, and instead I’m eating oatmeal for breakfast, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and anything I can warm up from the freezer for dinner (unless I’m lucky and Mom does the cooking, but she is not a messy cook, sorry Cricket).


            I should at least be ordering out from Wild Fig (a Turkish restaurant with multiple locations nearby), or buying readymade Falafel or Bourekas from the international supermarket, but I’m not doing either one, and I’m not sure why.

            My first theory for why I was struggling was that most of the recipes, like the shows, are in Hebrew and measure in grams, which makes them largely incomprehensible. So I went online to look for similar recipes in English and found a treasure trove on Jamie Gellar’s site (she’s an orthodox, kosher cook who covers a wide range of styles of cooking, including Israeli).

But now I have a pile of new recipes that I have no energy to make.

            I don’t think it’s depression that’s holding me back, if only because once I take my afternoon (or morning) nap my moods are pretty good, even if my energy level still stinks. But there’s something about knowing how little energy I’m likely to have tomorrow, or next week, that has changed my calculations for what kinds of plans to make, if any.

“Plan to take a nap.”

            I’d like to believe that I’ll be able to do some cooking over the summer, when I won’t need all of my energy for teaching, but there’s also a long list of writing projects and exercise goals and doctor visits and household tasks that I need to catch up on over the summer, and even then, we don’t have air-conditioning in the kitchen to make it bearable, just a fan that tends to read between 80 and 95 degrees all summer long.

But I keep watching these cooking shows and wishing I could just walk down the hall to the kitchen and make an Israeli salad, or bake my own pitas on the top of the stove. I need to believe that something will improve soon so that I’ll be able to use all of this inspiration to actually make plans and follow through on them, or else I’m afraid I’ll get so stuck in my reality that I’ll forget how to hope for more.

Some links:

From Jamie Geller – Machane Yehuda Recipes (in English) (10 min.)

From Piece of Hebrew (with English subtitles) A SABICH recipe (14:18)

From Anachnu Al HaMapit with chef Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia (mostly in English with Hebrew subtitles) (53:15)

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

55 responses »

  1. Have you watched Girl Meets Farm on Food Network? Molly Yeh is half Jewish and half Chinese, and she makes some interesting dishes.

  2. I love to watch cooking shows, and cook…..sometimes. (Well, to be honest it’s baking I really like.) I think of it as gathering ideas, which I often don’t actually use for months or years. But for me, it’s the enjoyment of watching it that counts the most. Plenty of time to “do” later. Just my take! FWIW 😉

  3. Stephen Brockelman

    Small steps will get you where you want to go. There was a cooking show in the early 2000s called Feed Me, Bubbe! Many of the episodes are free on YouTube. Take a look at this one:

    The episodes are short and Bubbe is a joy to watch and learn from.

  4. I blame my lack of writing (anything more substantial than a blog) on the winter weather. The lack of energy to try and be creative is the short days, the up and down cold, warm, snow then rain. I’m hoping when spring arrives (which could be Tuesday 😂) I will once again have the energy to finish some of the work I have started in the fall. So I can understand your lack of energy for cooking, it takes a lot to prepare a meal.

  5. Same. I love watching cooking shows! But actually cooking (shopping for ingredients, including prepping the ingredients, storing leftovers, and cleaning up afterwards)? Meh.

  6. I enjoy cooking shows too, and sometimes even cook some of the recipes I see. I usually stick to the easy ones, though.

  7. I rarely watch cooking shows on TV but regularly follow some cooking channels on YouTube. I find them entertaining and I know most of the time, I’ll never attempt any of the dishes being shown.
    Sometimes I’ll learn a technique, which is always handy to have a collection of cooking techniques to make cooking easier or safer.
    I hope you start feeling more like making meals and perhaps Cricket will benefit 😊

  8. Interesting! I’m reminded of a familiar show — “Krav Sakinim,” which is purportedly the Israeli version of “Iron Chef America” hosted by Mark Dacascos (of “Hawaii Five-0” and “John Wick 3” fame). Have you checked it out?

  9. When sunny days come, we’ll all be more inspired.

  10. I trust you will surmount your cooking block

  11. My wife loves ‘The Great British Bake Off”. I think it is available in the USA.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  12. Start small that way you don’t get overwhelmed.

  13. I love to watch Rachael Ray because her meals are supposed to be fast and easy. I’ve never actually prepared anything she demonstrates.

  14. I hear you loud and clear. Despite calling my kitchen “My Happy Place”, I haven’t been cooking this winter like I usually do. I’ve been gathering a few interesting recipes and I’ve tried two so far. I get unmotivated to look for more recipes after I get frustrated in seeing ingredients that I’m not willing to spend money on simply to use one teaspoon in a recipe I might not even like!

    You know your energy limitations, and you know you need to not use it up for something you may find out wasn’t worth it (a recipe you make and then don’t like); I think your mind is being quite intuitive in this instance!

  15. Your energy will come back. Mine always does; I often feel too tired to cook.

  16. This is a site where you just list what you have on hand already and it comes up with a recipe for you. No need to run to the store and search for exotic ingredients you only need a bit of anyway and will never use again. As they say, “The only ingredients we assume you have are salt, pepper and water.”

    It’s still too much for me though. I’m just not a cook. Everything I eat coms out of a bag, a box or a can.

  17. What an interesting thought. Sometimes I really do feel like we sometimes have too “fake it till we make it” back. Even if we’re the only ones who know what we’re faking. I dislike cooking, but I’m the only one who does it. So now I take to “If you dont like it make it yourself”. I don’t have children. But my partners been off work since early December, and he’s about to go back tomorrow. Didn’t cook a single meal for us during the whole time, and I was working.
    So yeah, now I am just going to start cooking what I want too. Maybe then I’ll enjoy cooking.
    Sometimes you really have to fake it, till you get back up there. There is a fine line though!
    Oh my goodness my thoughts are jagged, lol

  18. I wonder if if more cooking could somehow help you in your teaching?

  19. Some of those cooking shows of the competitive sort you see the people add salt at every step along the way and I’m sitting there thinking they’ve put more salt in one dish than I’d use in a month or more. Then they take it up to the judge and the judge says, “Needs more salt.”

  20. What a fun way to practice language skills! I’m intrigued by the comment above about the show called Feed me, Bubbe!

  21. It, too, watch cooking shows though I am a terrible cook (LOL). ❤

  22. I get in funky moods about cooking too, but they don’t last long. I guess because I have 4 dogs to feed (raw) and a husband who often doesn’t have time to cook, LOL.

  23. My Mom taught me some of her recipes. (My brother and I didn’t want to lose that knowledge, so we wrote down as much as possible, even though she never measured anything.) But she also told me also to get a basic cookbook on some of the simpler things I liked, follow those instructions to get me into the ballpark, and modify them (seasonings, additions, etc) from that point. That would make me more confident in cooking my own creations.

  24. I also struggle with depleted energy at times. However, I have to fight the voices in my head sometimes constantly, otherwise I’ll be depressed. But another reason I’m depleted is the weather. As I get older, the worse it gets. I only leave my house if absolutely necessary during winter. And I’m practically a couch potato. In the summer I have way more energy. I’m sure if we didn’t have a/C that would be a different story.

  25. Hang on to that hope! And I know what you mean about those recipes. I’m stuck here in Scotland with grams, etc. and haven’t got a clue. Fortunately, I have my good old fashioned recipe book from the U.S., so I just do the best I can with the cups and teaspoons, etc. I brought with me when I came here.

  26. You may laugh at my suggestion, but I have found this useful in the past: focus on making just one new recipe every week. It can be anything, sweet or savoury, but you may find that you will look forward to that one experiment and – who knows – it may lead to others. As for being a messy cook: I think most of us are!


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