I started getting addicted to the show Masterchef in Australia recently as it replayed on TV. I watched in awe as scattered bits of fruits and vegetables concocted into divine dishes miraculously. I imagined myself on the show. I cried when the contestant I liked got bumped out. As a self-declared foodie, I wish I could cook like that. But I really shouldn’t venture into that stream, or any other, until I’ve learnt to master my perfectionist attitude.
I’ve always liked cookbooks, and had a stack from the years as a collection, looking at the drooling pictures of food made me happy, especially those cakes dancing out at me. Yet I had never once used them, I never thought I could cook, even though now I think about it, Cookery class was perhaps my favourite back in high school, and one of the few classes I actually did really well in – but of course it was not seen to be a subject which would make me a doctor or a lawyer so eventually I had to give up the class.
So for better or for worse when I got sick and was stuck at home most of the time, I followed recipes here and there, when I had enough energy. I cooked for the 2 of us in the beginning. Then, gingerly I organized the first dinner party at home where I cooked for 8 people, then 10, then 12, then 20. I loved arranging the table mats, matching the glasses, drawing up a menu, googling how to make caramel sauce. Yet, every time I cooked it stressed me out, and gave me a migraine almost.
I was worried that guests won’t like my food, that the beef was over cooked, the salad didn’t turn out right, the soup was too diluted, or the dessert won’t set. I was trying to present the perfect dishes for a meal. I lost sight of what I enjoyed – creating my food in the kitchen as a therapeutic process to calm down. I wanted so badly to impress others, forgetting that what they appreciate the most, is simply the invitation to our home and hang out, whether I had cooked a feast or boiled instant noodles for them.
I was striving for perfection, and as a result stopped enjoying the journey and zoomed in only on the destination.
Not to say that we shouldn’t continuously try to improve ourselves, but there really is no point in pushing yourself into perfection for everything, for it creates unnecessary stress. I am not aiming to be a chef as those contestants on the Masterchef show, at least not just yet. So why don’t I just take pleasure from the cooking process, spinning vegetables with my food processor and enjoying the company for the evening?
Perfectionism is overrated.