How to Procrastinate #3 – Cooking.

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Photograph: Jorge Zapata via StockSnap

The late Douglas Adams, author of the brilliant Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was a well known procrastinator. He reportedly hated the writing process and would spend hours in the bath to avoid getting started.  Of procrastination, he once said:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

For those not prone to lounging in the tub or making endless cups of tea, a valuable alternative can be found in cooking. Celebrity cook and all round foodie Nigella Lawson is famous for having taken solace in the joys of cooking when life became intolerable, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the procrastinator might use it as a tool for putting off the obligations of the day.

Let’s be clear, however, that cooking as procrastination is not simply a case of “making dinner.”  It is not of the “eating to prevent dying” variety. What I’m talking about here is the “I think I’ll have a go at making my own hummus” sort of activity. It is a great strategy for distraction that starts with a desire for a coffee and a muffin and ends with you force feeding handmade (and thus misshapen) cupcakes on your friends and family lest the sugary mound occupying your kitchen goes to waste.

A couple of years ago, around the time I was due to submit my PhD thesis, I thought it would be an epic idea to start making my own pasta. Sure didn’t the celebrity chefs all say it was as cheap and easy to make your own as to buy it in the shops.  “No more dried out bags of Tesco’s finest for me,” I thought. No sir. I was going to make the sort of pasta that would make Ms. Lawson drop to her knees and weep. Thesis be damned. This. This was the purpose of my life.

So, I bought a pasta machine; scoured the internet for advice on the best flour; searched for the best ratio of liquid to dry ingredients; decorated my kitchen with lanky strands of yellowy grey “tagliatelle” and had fabulous procrastinatory fun cleaning up the resultant gluey mess.

Admittedly, and after much practice, I managed to cook some pretty decent pasta (if I do say so myself!) which leads me to point out that cooking, like cleaning before it, falls under the category of procrastination that John Perry calls, “structured.” It’s a useful distracting tactic because the finished product can be valuable indeed. If you end up stocking the freezer with huge batches of curry because you were trying to avoid doing your taxes then by the time you actually sort out your finances, you have the food issue sorted for the next couple of months. I mean it’s not like eating is going out of fashion now is it?

Of course the cooking as procrastination theory falls flat if the thing you are trying to avoid doing is make dinner. Here an entirely different plan of action is required, often with the help of computer. In part three, I turn my attention to a classic computer game beloved of procrastinators over the age of 30 – Minesweeper.

Missed the first two parts of the How to Procrastinate series?

Find them here: Part 1 and Part 2.

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