Intuitive ADHD-style cooking

I love to cook, just not from recipes

My mother was a good cook, always looking through women’s magazines for recipes to try out. When I left home to university, I had a problem. I loved great food, expected quality cooking but had no one other than myself to do it.

Over the years I have become a pretty good cook, but where I differ from my mother is that I never cook from recipes.

The normal way to cook, is to use recipes. Someone, maybe a professional cook, has experimented and produced a dish that’s tasty and works. They capture the combination of ingredients, cooking times and techniques, and write it down. The “recipe” can be easily shared. If you cook the recipe, according to its process and ingredients, it’s guaranteed to work.
  • Most people like to cook from recipes
  • Some people like to create recipes
  • A few like to make it up as they go along

Recipes make perfect sense, but just not for me and my ADHD…

Recipes limit my creativity, I want to cook something original. Recipes insist that I follow and remember instructions, which I won’t. I have always had problems with authority and a recipe is an authority. Complying with someone else’s process is innately hard, whether completing a tax return or following a list of cooking instructions.

So my cooking is improvised based on experience of past dishes, with input from cook books, TV shows, food that I eat with friends or at restaurants. At most I might take the main concept for a meal, then cook my own thing. There are similarities in how artificial intelligences such as IBM’s Chef Watson are learning to create original recipes and taste combinations. IBM Chef Watson and I, both learn by assimilating data from recipes, Watson in moments, me over many years. We observe effective cooking and taste combinations, then we design new recipes based on these patterns. It has takes me a little longer, but over the years my cooking has significantly improved, as my experience, insight and skills develop.

Hidden rules = intuition

I do have rules when I cook, but they are intuitive, informal and unwritten rules. I don’t know what they are until I consider a particular dish. Then I can see what ingredients will combine and what won’t. I can tell how long it will take to prepare and cook. I can taste the dish and know what’s missing.

Friends and family members are disappointed that I never recreate a favourite meal. My joy however is in discovering taste combinations, not reproducing them from other people. I can sometimes try to improvise a similar dish again, but to be honest it will not be the same -I never cook the same dish twice!

If you asked me to write the recipe down, I might with some difficulty but I wouldn’t want to. Once a recipe is written down the dish will be fixed, unchanging and so eventually dull.

I don’t want to cook the same dish twice, because I don’t want to eat the same dish twice

A healthy cooking evolution

As new cuisines appear, as fresh ingredients arrive, as scientific health perspectives develop, so my cooking evolves. Each dish cooked is unique and up to date, incorporating everything I know then. I increasingly focus on healthier eating too, my cooking has broadened to include tofu and steaming.

Vegetables take a large share of my plate. Processed carbohydrates are almost gone, meat is on the way out with the exception of oily fish for my ADHD. Oils are in, olive or coconut. Organic vegetables, delivered weekly provide “unexpected” ingredient challenges –  what to do with so much beetroot! No grains or dairy, minimal sugar and maximum variety of ingredients. Juicing, organic foods, sprouted seeds, pulses, brown rice and quinoa have become a normal part of my staples. It’s much more challenging and rewarding to cook great tasting food that’s really healthy too.

A thoroughly ADHD cook

Cooking is quick and an ideal creative challenge for my ADHD. Cooking is almost immediately rewarding. My ADHD taste buds always desire new stimulating dishes. My ADHD brain struggles with lists, memory and following rules. My ADHD passion is to always create something unique. My ADHD makes me a pretty good cook.

Reading about and watching famous chefs and cooks on TV,  both Jamie Oliver snd Heston Blumenthal are ADHD too. It’s pretty clear that for many cooks and chefs, ADHD is part of their cooking success.
ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over 15,000 hours and 18 years of experience in coaching over 500 ADHD executives, ADHD business professionals and ADHD creatives. Andrew ran a major ADHD support group and an ADHD diagnostic clinic for a while. He is an ADHD specialist backed with business expertise from a twenty years career in software, from roles in programming, through marketing, sales and to running a few software start-ups. His ADHD insight is personal, with decades understanding his own ADHD experience and in bringing up his ADHD daughter. He has published his writing primarily via this website, with interactive ADHD courses in development.


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