Zen is an almost universal expression that means many things to many people. The descript I like the most of zen is one that proposes it is neither religion nor philosophy, but rather a state of one’s mind. To be in your zen, it is said, is to be in a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than conscious effort.

To be in my zen has been a lifelong goal of mine, and for good reason. When it comes to doing things, from the simple to the seemingly unconquerable, I am, have always been, and I suspect will always be the classic A-type personality. Easily elated (and even more easily deflated), perfectionist to a fault…you name it.
Whether working on a project with a critical deadline or hanging up curtains for my wife, I have this mindset that anything less than the best possible result is an epic fail. Worse, I like to think that I thrive when driven by a sense of urgency or panic, that I’m at my best when I’m running around like the proverbial headless chicken. This type of thinking and the behavior it shapes served me well on the job, but it proved to be detrimental to my health and ultimately led to my decision to retire early from my job.

Cooking, though, is one area where I seem to be in control, both emotionally and rationally. Maybe it’s because cooking is a passion I have had since childhood, but for whatever reason, the kitchen is my ultimate comfort zone. And when I’m cooking, I feel as though I am led by instinct rather than prescribed tasks. I seem to be in my zen, as it were.
To be up front, I am no chef or culinary professional, and I’ve only dreamed about opening a restaurant and getting paid to cook for other people. But I do consider myself a decent enough home cook who can feed and satisfy family and friends with my cooking skills and, in particular, my intuition. Which brings us to the topic of intuitive cooking.

To me, intuitive cooking means freeing your mind of muss and fuss and allowing yourself to do the cooking. No planning or thinking or psyching yourself up for a monumental task. You’re on self-driving mode. When you open the fridge and see what you have to work with, you know what to do and away you go.
Intuitive cooking doesn’t mean that you’re not paying attention or slaving away like a robot. You’re focused on your cooking, but not the least bit stressed. And when you make the final taste, you’re pleased with the results but never surprisingly so. That’s the way I am in the kitchen and I don’t think I can cook any other way except by intuition.
How does one become an intuitive cook?

I believe it’s a matter of applying the proper cooking techniques and understanding the contributions of your ingredients. Those we will get to later on as we delve further in the blog, but in the meantime, let’s talk about what I think is a potential pitfall to becoming an intuitive cook.
The way I see it, the biggest barrier to developing an intuition for cooking is recipes. I do not consider myself a recipe person, or at least not in the sense that everything I cook is gleaned from recipes. That is not to say that I don’t have any use for recipes. Quite contrarily, I regularly look up many recipes, online and in cookbooks. But I do this mainly for reference and to see how others’ take on a particular meal compares to that of my own. I also know a lot of people who are good at following recipes and creating really tasty meals. Depending solely on recipes though is a bit like a mechanic who relies heavily on his auto repair manuals, and I find that unfulfilling at best.
That said, you are going to see a lot of information that may be interpreted as recipes, but I am providing them more as simple directions on particular dishes. You will see a list of ingredients, but no measured amounts. You will see sequences of preparation and cooking methods, but no hard-set rules like exact cooking time.

As you might be guessing by now, this blog is primarily intended for those who think they can’t cook without a recipe. My goal is to make you a better cook, or be one, by providing you with information that will transform you from a cookbook cook to an enlightened kitchen master.
In wrapping up this introduction, I would like to encourage the active participation of subscribers to this blog this blog. An acquaintance of mine who used to be a school principal once told me that a good teacher is one that listens more and talks less to their students. Your input is going to be an essential component of this blog and will go a long way toward achieving my goal.

‘nuff said. Let’s get going!
Mike L.