After many years of struggling to explain why I don't really "like to cook", but still enjoy preparing my own food, I am working on a philosophy of cooking that is centered around this notion:
Building things is fun. Cleaning them up is not.
While there is definitely some mental shell-game happening here, I have found that if I deconstruct food prep in a particular way, I enjoy it more. In fact, the further I can get from the traditional (and tyrannical) recipe-model and still make food that is fucking tasty, the happier I am. And like almost any restaurant person would tell you, this is how the best food in the world is made.
I'm not talking about improvising, exactly. Sure, there is a certain joy in free-wheeling a complex meal and having it turn out OK. But that kind of cooking only works in my life about twice a year, and always feels more like a party (hangover and all) than a strategy for eating well.
Instead, I think if we focus on each part of the process (buying food, prepping and cooking ingredients, assembling them in interesting combinations and ways) just long enough to make them a little better, quality will naturally rise and so will our satisfaction. There is infinitely more joy in cooking in chunks--prepping large quantities of cheap, delicious stuff and then non-systematically combining them in awesome and different ways--than with the standard, cookbook approach. And no matter what you're measuring (time, money, mental-energy), it costs a hell of a lot less, too.
More time building and enjoying, less time cleaning up.