Lessons from One Year of Creative Cooking

Squash Blossom Quesadillas (Prompt 37: A dish you recreate after eating in a restaurant); Illustrated by Liz Brindley

At the beginning of 2019, I created a list called the "Creative Kitchen:" 52 prompts to inspire creative cooking. The prompts included items like:

"A dish that is an old family recipe"
"A dish that feels like winter"
"A dish that uses carrots from a local farmer"

Each week, I'd pick one prompt, cook it up, and then draw my concoction (you can see the illustrations on the Prints & Plants Instagram page: @prints_and_plants).

My intention for this challenge was to cook at home more often, play with my food, and create a consistent drawing habit.

It was indeed a challenge, but not in the way I expected.

At the outset, I thought it would be difficult to find dishes that fit the prompts, but that part came easy.

You gotta eat, so the cooking part of this challenge was going to happen regardless, but you don't have to draw. That became the real challenge: to show up consistently each week with a new illustration.

This taught me the power of constant practice and showing up each week no matter how "good" or "bad" I thought the drawing was. It helped me evolve as an artist and see my food with new eyes, noticing new details and colors and patterns.

It was in that space, once I got past my excuses and "too tired"s, that the act of drawing became like the act of cooking:

An act that allowed me to drop time and drop into the present moment. A meditation. An offering of gratitude for the foods I get to consume and share.

The "Creative Kitchen" challenge also helped me take a few steps back from recipes to experiment with what was on hand. I am typically a total recipe follower. Well, not "total." I shift spices here and there.

(always more garlic, often more chile powder)

This challenge helped me learn to let go of steps and outlines and plans to enjoy the spontaneity that awaits us in each moment.

After these 52 weeks of creative cooking, I have a new level of familiarity with the kitchen, a comfort found in the repetitive motions of chopping, stirring, tasting. Time floats away as meals come together, and I return to a space where I feel grounded and amazed at the wonders of this life:

-the slice of a diced onion
-the smell of rosemary wafting from a stew
-the crumbly texture of blue cornbread

The kitchen offers itself up, much like an art studio, to creative experimentation and mishaps and messes. It becomes a haven for comfort, a place to discover meaning.

Though I'm finished with the 52 prompts, I'm carrying these lessons forward:

1) Consistency compounds.
2) Give gratitude for the seemingly mundane moments.
3) Creative exploration requires commitment.
4) Release the plan and PLAY!
5) Press pause to be fully present.

If you're curious about the prompts and looking for more creativity in your cooking practice, download the list of 52 prompts to play with at your own pace.

It's loads of fun and can help you reconnect with family, friends, and food in a new way.

Happy eating!

'Til next week,


Daily drawings (1.11.20-1.17.20):


Santa Fe NM United States

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