Essays

A Bucket List for Cooks : 50 Accomplishments For a Lifetime of Kitchen Joy

Gorgeous stove photo courtesy of La Cornue.

Do you know about the bucket list, also called life list? The idea is to list all the things you would like to accomplish in life*.

It’s an amazing exercise to do — on your own, as a couple, or with friends — because it says a lot about your deep desires and ambitions. It’s important to banish all the “yes, but’s” and allow yourself to dream big, without limiting yourself to what you think is realistic or acceptable. You can keep the list somewhere on a notebook and computer, and add to it as you think of new ideas.

My personal life list includes, among other items, getting a tattoo (I have a pretty good idea of the design) (Oh, hi Mom!), speaking Japanese, going on a meditation retreat, and sleeping in an igloo. An ideal scenario would be getting a tattoo on a meditation retreat held in an igloo in Japan; I have to see if the format exists.

I love the idea so much I’ve imagines a bucket list for cooks with 50 kitchen accomplishments to aspire to. I’ve included things from easy to difficult, in terms of technique, opportunity, and organization.

You’ll find the list below. Tell us in the comments how many you’ve already accomplished, and which you would add for yourself.

To help you do this, you can download your free printable bucket list; such a fun thing to do during an evening with like-minded friends! (If you want to slip it into your bujo, print it to 65% of the original format.)

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What To Do Instead of a Detox: A Gentler Way to Start The Year

We’re just a few days into January, and already you are being assailed by messages of diet this and detox that.

And certainly, you will feel the pull. Who wouldn’t? It’s everywhere, and you feel a little food-ed out from the holiday celebrations. But. There is more than one way to handle this feeling, and I’d like to offer an alternative to self-punishment.

Instead of diving head first into group guilt, self-loathing, shame, restrictive eating, imaginative cleanses, and the inevitable backlash they breed, consider directing these vast (VAST!) amounts of time and energy and brain juice toward making peace with food and with your body.

It’s revolutionary.

I don’t believe anyone passionate enough about food to read cooking blogs — or, um, write one — has a perfectly carefree relationship to food and body image. In fact, I’ve long surmised that many of us food bloggers start their blog in part to make sense of that relationship; I know I did.

And it’s no wonder, friends. We live in profoundly body-obsessed societies that hold up impossible standards for us to beat ourselves up over. And French women, with their worldwide reputation of slim figure and effortless elegance, are in no way immune to this. I don’t remember a time, past the age of nine or ten, when I was a-okay with the way my body looked. Do you?

The obsession and its implications come in different flavors depending on the culture, but it is so profound, so internalized that few even question it.

Over the past couple of years, I have become more keenly aware of this: in the way I inhabit my own body, and in my environment, both online and offline. Body positivity and unconditional self-love* are radical ideas, and I am fully on board.

Only recently, I watched my friend Elena Rossini’s new documentary The Illusionists about the global marketing of unattainable beauty. It carries such an important, enlightening, liberating message that I wanted to share it with you, and I have five copies of it to give away (details at the bottom of this post).

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

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13 Years of C&Z: 13 Lessons for Blogging and Life

Hey, you know what I did thirteen years ago, like, to the day? I went ahead and created a blog! About food! And I called it, wait for it, Chocolate & Zucchini. Because it had a nice ring to it, and I liked chocolate, and I liked zucchini (and fortunately still do).

It has been an utterly amazing thirteen-year ride, and most of my life’s blessings have stemmed directly or indirectly from that single decision.

Where and who would I be if I hadn’t created C&Z? It’s anyone’s guess and it makes me a little dizzy just thinking about it, but I can’t imagine how I could possibly have found a more fulfilling, happier life path. (It’s a pretty good feeling.)

I want to thank you, whether you’ve been reading for thirteen seconds, thirteen weeks, or thirteen years. None of this would make sense, or even be possible, if it wasn’t for your interest and your readership.

I will be organizing a Paris meet-up soon, to celebrate with those of you who happen to be in our fair city. (It will be free; the idea is just to get together for a drink and a chat.) If you’re interested, please fill out this form and we will notify you when we’ve arranged the details of date and venue.

I have done a lot of learning, thinking, and growing over the past thirteen years, and I want to pass on these thirteen lessons for blogging and life. I hope some of these resonate with you. I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts if they do!

Basket of produce at the market

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Fasting Against Jetlag

Sprouted Trail Mix: The Snack That Broke My Airplane Fast

As the traveling season gets nearer, maybe you have some lovely, exciting plans to fly someplace distant across several time zones. In that case you’ll have to contend with jetlag, and if you do, I want to share a cool tip I first heard about from my friend Adam, who himself picked it up from Jason Kottke.

The advice is simple: you should fast for 12 to 16 hours before breakfast time at your destination.

The reasoning is that the digestive system plays a significant role in our body’s perception of time. This voluntary fast is meant to mimick an overnight fast (minus the midnight munchies) and helps to set the body’s internal clock to the new time zone.

I happened to read about this just before we left to spend some time in San Francisco in the fall, and since we were about to embark on a round trip of 12-hour flights with 9-hour time differences, I was quick to recruit myself as a guinea pig to test the technique.

And I’m thrilled to report it worked really well: I sailed through the time difference with just about the same effects I get from taking the metro, even though I got virtually no sleep on the plane, thanks to a very sweet, but very alert little boy sitting on my knee.

It was very easy to put in practice, too.

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Cooking For One (Zucchini and Chickpeas)

Zucchini and Chickpeas

This is what dinner looks like when I eat on my own.

I am endlessly curious to know what cooks cook when they cook for one: some can’t see the point if there is no audience, others fall back on no-cook comfort foods, some take it as their opportunity to indulge in the foods they love but their family despises, and others yet take pleasure in treating themselves to the precise meal their appetite calls for.

I’m in the latter camp. Breakfast cereal for dinner was never my thing, and my evenings alone revolve around two all-important decisions: what dish I feel like eating, and what movie I feel like watching.

I relish the closed circuit thought process that solo meal planning involves, my brain taking its cue directly from my stomach, with zero consideration for anything or anyone else.

Granted, the cooking I do then is quite simple, taking no more than thirty minutes of my time, cleanup included, but still, it’s thirty minutes that I invest in my evening with joy. And what those meals have in common, 99.9% of the time, is that 1- they are vegetable-focused, and 2- they can be eaten from a bowl, with just a fork or a spoon. An essential feature if I am to couch-curl while I eat.

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