Don't settle for sub-standard meals. Good homemade food fuels both body and soul.
"Cook for yourself like you would for a guest." This advice comes from Claire Lower in an article for Lifehacker, and it's aimed at people who live alone and cannot be bothered to cook a gourmet feast when there's no one else to enjoy it. Sometimes this is a good thing. You can gorge yourself on popcorn and call it a night without fear of judgment. But Lower argues that this "wears on the soul" over time.
Put in more effort, she says, and cook your best recipes for yourself because "you deserve them, friend."
"All long-term relationships need maintenance, and your relationship with yourself is your longest. Just as one slides into the routine of wearing nothing but sweatpants around their spouse, one can end up cooking nothing but utilitarian plates of uninspired nourishment."
I love this advice, but I would take it even further. Cooking well for yourself is a chance to practice your cooking skills. How else do you expect to get any better? And the more you do it, the easier it gets. I promise you'll reach a point when whipping up a plate of carbonara is as easy as making Kraft Dinner, and that's a glorious and liberating feeling.
Nor should this advice be restricted to people living alone. I often tell my young children at the dinner table, "Imagine you're eating at a fancy restaurant. That's how you need to behave." Every meal is a chance to work on good table manners, including the art of dinner conversation, eating neatly, and using cutlery and a napkin properly. I try to use nice dishes and real glasses in order to create an appealing atmosphere that encourages everyone to take the meal more seriously.
At the same time, I see it as a parental duty to cook a range of interesting, delicious meals to help train the kids for the inevitable day when they actually are at a fancy restaurant or a friend's house and faced with a strange soup, an unusual salad, or an unrecognizable main. That way, they'll know what to do and how to do it politely.
Eating gives shape and meaning to our days, not to mention flavor, nutrition, and energy. Just as boring, repetitive meals wear on the soul, mouthwatering ones can bring happiness, hopefulness, peace, and healing. So, don't give up on cooking well, whether it's just for yourself or for a brood of unappreciative offspring, even if it's just a few times a week and the dishes are simple. It does get easier and better, and you'll learn to look forward to it.