4 Cooking Personality Types That Can Sabotage You in the Kitchen
Making the commitment to plan and prepare healthy meals on a consistent basis takes work. Throw in the added challenge of managing diabetes and, well, life can be a bit (or a lot!) more stressful.
If you’ve found yourself growing short on patience in the kitchen—or outright resisting cooking altogether—you might have some psychological obstacles that are subconsciously sabotaging your best efforts at meal planning and prep. In my work as a therapist and cooking coach who helps people identify and overcome their practical and psychological obstacles to cooking, I have found that people tend to fall into four cooking personality types. And while each type has certain traits that can work for you (perfectionists, for instance, are great at following recipes, while creative types aren’t intimidated by trying something new), more often than not the negative traits of your cooking personality type wind up getting in the way.
Which Cooking Personality Type Are You?
Pinpointing your cooking personality — and then finding ways to make it work for you— is just another tool to up your confidence in the kitchen. “Managing diabetes is all about balance, and in order to balance your diet, you need to know what you are actually eating,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of ”Belly Fat Diet For Dummies." "Preparing your own food empowers you to know exactly what you are putting into your body, so that you can understand how your glucose levels respond to it, ultimately leading to improved blood glucose management."
To figure out your type, answer the questions below to find out which cooking personality you align with most. If you answer yes to four or more questions in a category, that’s your type. (There may be overlap with other types, but there should be one dominant type.)
Once you’ve identified your cooking personality, view my summary of your challenges and strengths. Being more aware of these can help you begin to refine your habits, and eventually get more joy out of meal planning and food prep and — the best part— stop sabotaging yourself in the kitchen!
1. The PERFECTIONIST Cooking Personality
- Do you find yourself telling people you “don’t have the cooking gene” or that you hate to cook?
- Do you worry that you will be judged for your lack of cooking skills?
- Do you blame yourself when your dish doesn’t come out as planned?
- When a particular step in a recipe does not work in the way you anticipated, do you get very frustrated and annoyed, and feel that you are wasting your time?
- Do you feel like giving up when you believe you’ve failed at a recipe?
- Do you feel like the dish/meal needs to be flawlessly presented and incredibly delicious for it to be acceptable to serve to yourself and/or others?
Alma’s analysis: Remember that cooking is a learned skill, like driving or water skiing, and you are a student. Because perfectionists typically have high expectations for themselves, they must plan accordingly. If you’re just starting out with cooking for others, at first only cook for the kindest, most supportive of your friends and family. Small steps are key, which may mean planning to master one dish at a time; don’t attempt a full dinner party to start. Your initial dishes should be quick, easy and with few ingredients, like a dip. Once you’ve mastered the dish, you’re ready to up your game and show it off to a larger crowd. A beautiful presentation can also go a long way in feeling successful in the kitchen. So get out that garnish!
2. The CREATIVE Cooking Personality
- Are you very casual when preparing a meal?
- Are you confused when a recipe comes out poorly?
- Do you blame others when your recipe goes wrong?
- When you are told to measure ingredients in a recipe, do you ignore it and eyeball the measurements?
- Do you intentionally add or leave out ingredients the first time you make a recipe?
- Do you get frustrated when a meal fails, but also remain unmotivated to follow instructions the next time?
- Do you fail to learn from your mistakes?
Alma’s analysis: Just as with painting or dance, you must learn the basics before you can add our own pizzaz. Following instructions to a tee is of great importance, even if it means checking off each measurement with a pencil after you add it. Only when the foundations of a recipe are complete can we give ourselves a little freedom to experiment. And experimenting many times until you like the dish is OK!
3. The CONFLICTED Cooking Personality
- Do you have a picture in your mind that cooking is old fashioned and unnecessary?
- Does cooking seem too all-consuming?
- Do you secretly look down upon, feel sorry for, or resent women who are always baking from scratch for the bake sale or who have a planned menu for the week?
- Do you paradoxically want to be them, too?
- Would you be more inclined to cook if you could easily replicate some of the latest cooking trends?
Alma’s analysis: You may have grown up with a mother who cooked all day and never had time for anything else, and you decided from early on that you didn’t want to have a similar kitchen lifestyle. At the same time, you may know how important home cooking is for your health, but get discouraged when you start to feel it consuming you. The most important strategy for the Conflicted Cook is one of reframing certain ideas. For example, you can take a traditional family favorite and tweak it to make the dish your own. Or you may be empowered by allotting a certain amount of time each week to learn a basic cooking skill in order to become more efficient in the kitchen (and not have cooking consume too much of your time). You can be an interesting, successful and accomplished person and also a great chef. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
4. The DISTRACTED Cooking Personality
- Do you feel that you cannot even think about shopping, prepping or cooking unless you have every single detail spelled out?
- Are you sometimes embarrassed, confused or frustrated by the fact that everyone else seems to be able to whip up a successful meal and you can’t make a fried egg?
- Does it make you feel incompetent when someone says, “Don’t worry, this is a super easy recipe,” yet it sounds so overwhelming and complicated to you?
- Have you been diagnosed with ADD or you feel like you have ADD-like symptoms?
Alma's analysis: The key for the Distracted Cook is organization. The more you commit to a system, the less distracted you will be. First consider what stresses you out the most with cooking and take it from there. If it’s shopping, make sure to have a complete and clear shopping list. If it’s not knowing where your ingredients or tools are, label everything in your kitchen. It's important to feel in control of your environment so no detail should be dismissed if it helps you concentrate. You may want to enlist the help of an organized relative or friend who loves to cook, someone you trust and with whom you feel very comfortable—in other words, someone who will not judge you!
Up next from Alma: Her expert plan for how to organize your kitchen and be a more efficient food shopper.