Scientific American Mind:
I’ve never enjoyed cooking. All the chopping, stirring and waiting—not to mention handling raw meat (the former vegetarian in me can’t help but shudder). Somehow I still pull together meals for my family that they seem to enjoy. But when I think about teaching my daughter to cook or about ways to help my husband become more comfortable in the kitchen, I’m at a loss. How do you translate habit and instinct into step-by-step pointers anyone can follow?
Complex dishes can involve long lists of ingredients and instructions, and even simple ones can get mind-numbingly repetitive—measure, pour, stir, repeat. A skill that will help you deal with both issues is simple concentration. “To me, focus and tenacity are key to being a good cook,” says Jason McClure, chef of Sazerac, a restaurant in Seattle. “You can get an initial thrill from cooking a new dish, and it’s always perfect and gorgeous that first time”—but boredom and distraction can lead to charred meat and soggy pasta. One well-known way to increase your natural ability to concentrate? Meditation. A 2010 paper in Psychological Science found that people who went to an intensive three-month meditation retreat for a week were better able to maintain their concentration during a boring test than a control group; in another study, college kids who meditated for 20 minutes a day saw a difference in cognitive abilities after just four days.
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