Like most people I know, I stay tethered to my phone for a large chunk of my waking hours, whether for business purposes (Conference calls! Interviews!) or less-than-professional reasons (Group gossip texts! Funny videos of baby sloths!). Also like most folks I know, I’m always trying to find ways to be not quite so attached to the little buzzing device in my pocket, whether by leaving my phone at home when heading out to a yoga class, or designating an hour before bedtime a “screen-free” zone. (Results often vary on actually going through with these.)
Given my limited willpower when it comes to divorcing my phone, I decided to take an even smaller baby step toward lessening my digital-dependency: using an old-school kitchen timer to track cooking time in my kitchen.
Cooking has always brought me a great amount of pleasure, and a reprieve from the daily slog of emails, bad news and yet another thing added to the to-do list. What I’ve found in recent years, though, is that using my smartphone as a timer in the kitchen—whether making a quick weeknight dinner or baking a slow-and-steady Sunday morning brunch—has made cooking more like a multitasking business event. Sure, I’m still sautéing the onions, but since I already have my phone out to use as a timer, I figure I might as well also scroll through Instagram, check something on my calendar and fuss over the wording of a headline I’m composing. Afterall, it’s all right there at my fingertips! The joy of being present with a meal—smelling the ingredients, thinking about their preparation, letting my mind wander—is, at that point, all but gone.
Breaking out an old-school kitchen timer, though, helps me focus on being present with what I’m doing when cooking, and in turn, enjoy it more. When you’re relying on a whimsical chicken to tell you when to check on your cookies, there’s no temptation to also read the latest hot takes on Twitter, or when you’re watching the bake-time for your pizza on a chamingly retro time piece, you can’t also happen to aimlessly scroll past in-laws bickering on Facebook. It’s a small measure, sure, but a big break from the—often exhausting, seemingly never-ending—pressure of being digitally engaged.
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