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March 31, 2014

A Canuck in Kantuck: Getting back in the kitchen

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It hasn’t been a stellar winter for me in the kitchen. I usually hit a patch of doldrums in February anyway, but I was uninspired in January and now here’s March, not much better. I’ve made just one recipe in my new crockpot, the spines of the latest issues of my food magazines are uncracked, and my fridge is ridiculously clean, which only happens when it’s, well, empty.

So easily, cooking can become just another chore to get through amid a series of chores. First you need to figure out what to make, which can be the longest part of the process. Then there is the trip to the grocery, then waiting in line at the cashier, then driving, then putting things away, then finally getting set up for preparation. Even if the end product is the most enjoyable part of your day, which eating dinner always is for me, it doesn’t mean getting to it is always fun.

Over the past weeks, I’ve wondered if my love of cooking has left me — or at least shrunk. Why haven’t I wanted to read my “Fine Cooking,” after all? I used to hungrily rip off the plastic as soon as I saw it in the mailbox. And why am I more intimidated than excited to try out a new appliance I got for Christmas? Am I getting set in my ways?

Actually, yes. At this time of year, when spring is refusing to spring and the land is brown and grey, it’s easy to feel stuck in routine, easy to complacently rely on go-to rather than invent or experiment.

But this morning as I packed Gabrielle and William another boring lunch, I felt ready to snap out of it. I opened the February issue of “Bon Appétit,” which promised warm winter meals. Given that it had started lightly snowing, that felt about right. I imagined my humming, fragrant kitchen welcoming my husband home and felt, for the first time in weeks, inspired. It took just a slight adjustment of my attitude to find a recipe that looked good: Indian-spiced chicken with tomatoes and cream.

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