Every year, New Year’s food resolutions start promisingly yet many tend to dwindle rapidly. After the maelstrom year that was 2016, one can understand the desire to move into a completely new time, marked by an even firmer resolution. With a firmer resolution, however, comes a steeper slide back into old food habits. Perhaps 2017 is the year to try a new kind of resolution: forget trying to control what you eat, try cooking instead.
Among many of the greats lost in 2016 was that giant of all food critics, A. A. Gill, whose thorny humour and characteristically piercing critique granted him a place at the top of the food chain. A recovered alcoholic, Gill found cooking a sort of therapy—“four and 20 black thoughts baked in a pie”. As with much of his writing, this assessment seems to hit the nail on the head, especially when it comes to New Year’s resolutions for 2017 which seek to move away from the black mess that was the year before.
From working one’s way through a hefty cookbook, to conquering Buzzfeed Food, there’s plenty to do. Whether you aspire to be a dab hand at patisserie, or just an expert at microwave mug cakes, having a personal cooking goal for the year can be as serious or as casual as you want it to be.
All resolutions require some motivation in order to be kept up: this year, in memory of a true jewel in the crown of British television, I say we put those familiar Bake Off induced hunger pangs to good use. Cooking programmes dominate the TV scene at all times of year, and are one of the best ways to learn how to cook.
Whilst being a year of lows for the world, 2016 was happily punctuated by many highs in the world of British cookery television. The winners of both Masterchef and the Great British Bake Off, Jane Devonshire and Candice Brown, were incredibly entertaining to watch—if the latter was divisive, she was arguably just as endearing as the former. This year-long presence of achievements in and ideas about food on TV is constant motivation to cook, whereas the January ‘clean-eating’ craze usually quickly falters.
New Year’s resolutions seek to leave behind bad habits and memories. But a sudden change can be challenging, not to mention a change in something so fundamental as food. The best way to leave behind a bad time is to have a good one, and there’s a reason that food is at the centre of social life. Paying more attention to, and taking more enjoyment from something as everyday and communal as cooking might be much more fun than an often solitary diet resolution. Ultimately, making a resolution about cooking will end up changing how we eat.