If you're like most everyone, you're already having trouble with your New Year's resolutions. Maybe you haven't folded yet, but surely the gears of self-doubt have begun to turn, challenging your will to move forward. Eventually you'll crumble, hanging this year's resolution in the closet, ready to be dusted off again in preparation for next year's failure.
Personal change is hard. But maybe one of the reasons we never succeed past late March is because most of the goals we try to attain aren't the least bit of fun to work on. Only weirdos enjoy cutting calories, and if you liked working out you wouldn't have to resolve to do it. And while becoming debt free might feel good, the act of paying down your debt is as alluring as eating a tablespoon of iodized salt. No wonder we fail.
A few years ago I wondered what would happen if I made my own personal New Year's resolutions from more of a hedonistic mindset. Instead of bettering myself through torment and sacrifice, what if I made promises that not only left me in a better place than the year before, but also were enjoyable in the process?
One year, after becoming acutely aware that I had the fashion sense of a computer engineer, I promised myself I would go to the mall and spend (x) dollars over a period (n). Shopping would be fun, I thought, and I'd have a decent wardrobe at the end of the year. Other years I promised to take myself out for dinner more often, or spend more time in my kitchen.
Each year, everything went great until my enthusiasm began to wane, usually before spring. It turns out all personal change is difficult, even if the behaviors are perceived as self-indulgent. But I didn't beat myself up about it too much. There's always next year, right? The only difference with these resolutions was that I was having fun while I worked on them, which is enough of a reason to make me think it's worth giving it another shot.
So here are some New Year's resolutions for the food lover in you, just in time to save you from the impending failure you set yourself up for on January 1.
Explore It doesn't matter if you're branching out into new neighborhoods, restaurants or cuisines, get out of your comfort zone and explore something new. If you previously didn't like a dish or restaurant, try it again. The more you eat, the more you'll expand your palate and then the more dishes you'll enjoy down the road. Take a look at our list of 50 Most Interesting Restaurants. If there's a cuisine you don't know much about, pick one of those restaurants and try it. You have nothing to lose, and you just might find your next favorite.
Take yourself out on a date Find a nice restaurant whose menu you've already fallen in love with, or you know has a great reputation for making amazing meals. Pick something refined but within your means and make it a splurge. Sit at the bar or sit at a table, but do it alone and try to focus on your meal in a way you wouldn't be able to if you were sharing your time with someone else. This one is all about you.
Want help with a pick? Try Nonna or Lucia if you're craving Italian, and Spoon if you'd like to focus on seafood. Each of these restaurants has a nice bar that's perfect for dining alone. You've never treated yourself so good.
Make friends with a new restaurant Pick a restaurant in your neighborhood and resolve to put in some time. Meet the chef, get to know the staff, be generous, polite and friendly, and soon enough you'll have a restaurant that feels like an extension of your living room. It's a pleasure to walk into a restaurant where the staff knows your tastes and preferences.
Buy a good knife and a woodblock You know who you are. That knife you got at Target has been stored unprotected in the same drawer that houses cooking spoons and measuring cups for years now and you have to bear down with all your weight to get it through a cucumber. It goes perfectly with that stained, plastic cutting board that's the size of a magazine. I'm amazed at home many kitchens I walk into that have tired worn out tools that are a bear to work with, not to mention unsafe.
You'll never prep ingredients with tools like this as well as you could with better equipment. Go out and buy a good knife and cutting board. And then make sure you read up on how to take good care of them.
Eat less meat What's this? I know eating less of something delicious sounds a lot like the resolutions I've advocated abandoning, but I'm only trying to talk you out of eating meat because it's keeping you from other things that are delicious. Middle Eastern, Indian and Asian cuisines produce some amazing dishes that you'll never see if you're permanently caught up in beef kebabs, lamb vindaloo and sesame chicken.
Forget meatless Monday, or other strict regimens that are tough to stick with. Instead, take a look at how much meat you're eating now, and then resolve to replace at least some of it with delicious vegetarian dishes. Try Pera for Turkish cooking, or Chennai for Indian that goes way beyond dosas and idlis. Try Royal Sichuan, if you think Chinese is limited to Kung Pao chicken.