A very smart friend once told me that happiness is simply a mathematical ratio of reality-over-expectations. The less realistic your expectations, the less chance you’ll have of being satisfied with the end product. I think this is a valuable formula to keep in mind when we’re cooking. If we aim for absolute perfection when we cook, it’s less likely that we’ll be able to overlook the little flaws and enjoy the goodness in our homemade dishes. If the pancakes aren’t completely round, they can still taste delicious! More importantly, they’re made with love and sometimes the real goodness is on the inside!
Could it be that one of the reasons the average American adult spends no more than 27 minutes in the kitchen, is that we’re afraid of failing? What if we modified our expectations, so that all we’re aiming for is real food combined in ways that we think our families might enjoy? The high-wire kind of cooking we sometimes see on the Food Network is impressive, no question. But for most of us, trying to do that every night is like trying to reenact Cirque de Soleil at home – probably after a long and busy day. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t stretch ourselves at times – by trying to make things we once thought were beyond our abilities in the kitchen – but the more forgiving we are of the small kitchen blunders, the more likely it will be that our pots find their way out of the cupboard for an encore.
Funny enough, cooking (and eating) together with the people we love has the potential to influence our happiness calculations as well. Cooking and eating together, whenever we can, is one way to optimize the “reality” part of the equation. What if we used our meals as a way of honor the day-to-day? Our family dinners could not only mark the passing of time but they could sort of remind us to celebrate the status quo, one meal at a time. There’s no need to put on a performance – with every prop in place before the curtain rises. When we cook, if we aim to be real instead of being perfect and try to turn ordinary days into little celebrations, happiness can be on the menu every day of the week.