The Comforts of a Cooking List

Turns out, they’re inspiring, too

Sara Cagle
Published in
5 min readJan 26, 2021


A handwritten list of “Culinary Desires” and a pen on a woven rug next to a calendar turned to the January page.
Photo: Sara Cagle

In 2021, I’m looking forward to a tentative trip to Italy in July. Or maybe a birthday party with more than one guest in March. I guess just a martini at home next Friday.

Though we’re nowhere near close to being able to make post-Covid plans, What I can do is march purposefully into the kitchen and make an amaretti crumble with mascarpone cream. Or stir-fried celery with peanuts and bacon or something with the ‘nduja I bought on sale.

These are my only plans for the foreseeable future. I am so excited by them (and by my ability to do anything at all) that I have written down a list of 16 things-and-counting to cook over the next several weeks.

I call it my cooking list: It lives on my fridge, and I can already tell that it will be one of my greatest joys of the new year.

My cooking list lives on my fridge, and I can already tell that it will be one of my greatest joys of the new year.

A cooking list has many obvious, practical benefits. It helps me avoid grocery shopping without direction, hurriedly filling my cart with the usual rice and eggs to be topped with chili sauce and scarfed down before a shift at work.

It encourages me to be in touch with the seasons, remembering to cook with blood oranges while they’re at their best and buy celery root while it’s still around. It reminds me of all the recipes I ogle on Instagram and discover in new cookbooks before they are scrolled past and into oblivion or relegated to the bookshelf.

More profoundly, list-making — and even better, crossing things off said list — is comforting, full of pretty possibilities.

I don’t know how these long, scary first weeks of 2021 will progress. Still, I’m sure that I’ll be able to find what I need for Carla Lalli Music’s buttery beets and grapefruit. I’m confident that the pleasure of eating something delicious, the satisfaction of checking it off of my list, and the excitement of adding something new in its place will make me feel good.

As I started the list, I wondered how my favorite cooks plan their own culinary endeavors, if at…



Sara Cagle
Writer for

Freelance food and travel writer. Living in LA and usually thinking about Italy. Work at and food pics @caglecooks