Full Disclosure: Culinary Tendinitis – New Canaanite

As a self-appointed expert on unknown medical conditions, I would like to shed light on an affliction that has impaired my ability to function as a home chef. 

Looking for inspiration everywhere. Credit: Susan Gelvin

I am not-so-quietly suffering from Culinary Tendinitis. In layman’s terms, it’s the overuse of one’s culinary skills during a pandemic, resulting in a lack of inspiration to prepare food for more than zero people. It’s a battle, and my family is trying to be supportive, but they are constantly hungry and wondering when I am going to pull it together.

After a year of excessive, never-ending meal planning, I am having difficulty conceiving of and executing appealing entrees. No one seems inspired by my new recipe suggestions or jazzed by ‘80s throwback ideas, like Shake ‘n Bake. My repertoire of tried and true, go-to homemade dishes used to be impressive. Now, due to repetition and overuse, my meals have gone from gourmet to gourmeh. 

Now, when my son asks what’s on the menu, he immediately answers his own question in the most monotone, lifeless way. With the enthusiasm of a sloth, he inquires, “What’s for dinner, chic–ken? Ugh.” Yet, ironically, he would eat at New Canaan Chicken for every meal if he could. And sure, I would love to continuously dine on takeout from the restaurants in town, but even that is challenging. Finding one establishment that appeals to the entire family is rare. 

To fully grasp the cause and extent of my culinary injury, you must know the following: My son has anger issues toward poultry, another family member doesn’t tolerate red meat, both children find fish somewhat offensive and everyone seems to have reflux. So I go into dinner planning with the odds stacked against me..

When everyone in my house had coronavirus last month (don’t ask), I may have wished, for a fleeting moment, that we would lose our ability to taste and smell. By diminishing our collective senses, I could get away with serving anything, even mystery slop. I also hoped our lack of appetite would provide a reprieve and allow us to skip some meals. Naturally, that didn’t happen.

Now spring weather is starting to alleviate my culinary setbacks. In a warmer climate, the sharp increase in outdoor dining options is just what the doctor ordered, and I’m a fair-weather fan of this kind of meal outsourcing. 

I found this winter that dining al frrrresco was rarely relaxing or cozy in the extreme elements. But when you’re desperate enough to avoid the painstaking monotony of making meal after meal, you’ll play along and suffer through any sub-par dining experience, so long as you’re not the one doing the cooking. 

Now that temps are rising, there’s little reason not to enjoy the creative feats of New Canaan’s professional chefs, who stand at the ready. 

Our town, a destination for discerning foodies, has done a commendable job creating space for outdoor dining enthusiasts. Soon it will be brimming with exhausted home cooks like me. We are fortunate that no Boston Post Road or similar thoroughfare runs through town to disrupt peaceful outdoor gatherings—though in truth, I am so tired of preparing dinner that I would eat at a table along Exit 37’s off-ramp if it meant that I would not be held responsible for meal conception, preparation, execution and clean-up.

Little will stop me from enjoying a meal away from home this spring. Even an encounter with an angry flock of Canadian geese won’t keep me from hitting up The Apple Cart at Mead Park, where the menu tickles everyone’s fancy. The owner, Emad Aziz, New Canaan’s favorite snowbird, is back in town and serving up dishes that happen to delight my entire family. And due to my culinary tendinitis, I will happily go on injured reserve and allow Emad to jump in and shoulder the responsibility of nourishing my people. 

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to forewarn any near-future guests who are looking to come over to my house to enjoy a meal together. There is one stipulation: You will need to supply the entire meal for everyone, because the only remedy for Culinary Tendonitis is rest, and I’m all out of ideas anyway.