Saturday, October 30, 2010

As I stare into the fridge

I have two extremes when faced with the prospect of cooking for myself (and only myself): I either get excited and creative, concocting something new that will last me a few days, or I get pouty, waiting until my stomach begins to hurt before I start banging cabinets and opening and closing the fridge door.  Granted this can happen when my husband is at home as well but the experience of cooking for one and eating alone is something all its own.  

This seems to be a subject of some curiosity to many, as shown by the books “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for one and Dining Alone” edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler and “What we Eat When we Eat Alone: stories and 100 Recipes” by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin.  Both books are collections of stories about the experience of cooking for one from the cabinet bangers and the excited folks that look forward to making exactly what they want they way they want it.  They explore the pleasures of being able to cater to our every gastronomical whim and also the concoctions we will eat alone that we would never eat in front of anyone else (or even tell them about). 

The majority of my experience cooking for one was in college where a meal of ramen (the 25 cent packages!) was acceptable and often showed up more than once a week.  That being the case, I have found myself ill equipped for the many nights I have found myself cooking for one, thanks to my husbands new job.  I am more than a little ashamed to admit that I did try the ramen  again (the price has gone up), and although I had the sense to add a few things to it, something I never thought of in college, it is really not a suitable meal for someone who claims to be passionate about food.  So I am learning.

Because my current situation has me eating alone for a few days in a row, I have learned to set myself up ahead of time.  Roasting a chicken for my husband and I the night before sets me up for chicken and rice or soup that will last me a few days.  In her book “The Gastronomy of Marriage: a Memoir of Food and Love” Michelle Maisto talks about how she misses the food that she ate alone and how now some of her favorites are her husbands least.  She finds herself looking forward to cooking her meals for one, and in suite I have started to think of the foods that I like that I cook less (or not at all) when it is the two of us.  

I love soup, all kinds all seasons, it makes me happy.  My husband less so.  It’s not that he doesn’t like soup, he like’s it fine with a meal.  To him a bowl of soup with a side of crusty bread is not a whole meal and to me it is The meal.  So, on my days alone soup has played a starring role.  I have also found that soup is the kind of dish that I look forward to making, thinking about it throughout the day, mentally adding and taking away different ingredients.  Now that we are in California we have such an incredible amount of fresh local produce just begging me to be made into Minestrone, Gazpacho, Potato Leek…..  I could go on and on. 

I will admit that I now have days that I am thrilled to eat alone, so that I can eat exactly what I want, when I want and while doing whatever else I might want at the same time!  On the other hand, I will probably always have my days where I have no interest in dealing with food and since there is only myself to answer to I just don't bother.  I'm OK with that.
So, what kind of food do you cook when you are alone?  Are you a pouty cabinet banger or an excited planner?   

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  1. While my wife tolerates omelets, I love them. Stuffed with cheese, or mushrooms, or asparagus, they are the perfect dinner when your eating solo. Some well-buttered french bread and a glass of white wine--or even beer--and I'm all set.

  2. I often find my self making something a little more involved then normal. This meal usually occurs later in the evening and has a greater kick to boot. I enjoy cooking for myself. When I lived alone I would cook every night the meals were not always different but there would subtle changes and that made it all good. Chicken Cordon Bleu, wild rice, salad: spinach, walnuts, cranberries, tomatos, cucumbers, bleu cheese. All of that with a tasty ale and a movie. Eating alone is not so bad at all.

  3. @Naftali
    Naftali, I think Rob would definitely agree with you about the omelets, whereas I lean more towards Frittatas when it comes to eggs for dinner.
    I think it's time I start taking notes from your book. I think it says a lot about a person, the pleasure they take in thier own company.

  4. I'm still new at cooking for one. I tend to make dishes that go a long way with a healthy punch to them. During the summer I like to make big salads such as the following: Wild rice, smoked salmon, mango, red onion, raw baby spinach (eventually look like cooked), grape tomatoes. Toss with lots of lime juice, cumin, spike seasoning (if u have), s&p, oil. Sprinkle with feta upon serving.
    While writing this I just ate half a container of dates. I could face serious repercussions for this action. I probably would not have eaten so many if someone was wathcing me.