If you looking for a New Year's resolution that doesn't feel like a punishment, as dieting or sober January often do, the #cook90 challenge might appeal to you. It isn’t about calorie counting or depriving yourself; it’s a celebration of home cooking, breaking bread with friends and family and consuming what makes you happy — so long as you make it yourself.
Founder David Tamarkin first came up with #cook90 — a pledge to cook three meals a day over a 30-day period — on New Year’s Day three years ago. At the time, he was going through a rough patch when he realized that cooking alleviated his anxiety. “There’s a mindfulness and meditative quality to cooking,” he says. He figured he’d do it more often.
Cooking three meals a day for 30 days definitely sounds daunting, and Tamarkin gets this: He lives in NYC and works full-time as the editor of Epicurious.
“I am a cooking person but I’m not necessarily a super organized person,” says Tamarkin. “What #cook90 does is it forces you to fit daily cooking into a hectic life.”
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As a bonus, eating at home also saves money, and even if you’re not counting calories, studies show that making your own meals ends up being healthier than eating out.
Tamarkin has devised a plan to make it doable. To participate, sign up on Epicurious and you’ll receive a newsletter with a suggested grocery list and a weekly meal plan. Follow it down to the recipe, use it for meal inspiration, or do your own thing. You can hold yourself accountable by posting your meals on social media with the hashtag #cook90, or follow along others’ culinary trials for camaraderie. Here’s how it works.
You can eat whatever you want, as long as you cook all your meals for 30 days. Tamarkin defines cooking as “transforming raw ingredients with heat,” or “taking two or more raw ingredients and combining them to make something greater than the sum of their parts.” So, making a sandwich counts; heating up a can of soup or a frozen burrito does not.
Breakfast is free
Because #cook90 is about challenging yourself and experimenting with cooking, Tamarkan encourages participants not to cook the same thing more than twice — except when it comes to breakfast.
“What I’ve learned is people don’t want to mess with their breakfast,” says Tamarkin. If you have your go-to meal, as long as you’re still cooking it, feel free to repeat the same thing every day.
Leftovers are your friend
“You can’t cook every day and not rely on leftovers — and you should,” he says. However, Tamarkin suggests not eating leftovers more than twice.
Instead, make “next-overs,” or leftovers repurposed to create a different meal. For example, if you make a roast chicken for one meal, shred it into tacos or diced it up in a caesar salad.
You get three cheat meals
“This is not supposed to be a punishment,” he says. “Sometimes you need to get out.” Treat yourself by eating three meals out during the month.
Cook with others
Take the opportunity to throw dinner parties and potlucks during the long, cold month. “You learn from other people, it’s fun, it creates community,” Tamarkin says.
Become a better home chef
After completing a #cook90, Tamarkin says that while he definitely doesn’t make every meal, the habit of cooking sticks with him and he has plenty of new recipes to get him through the winter. He also likes to do a #cook90 in the spring for a refresher.