Like many of the aspects of being single – cooking for one parallels other possibilities that please only you: utilizing ingredients you’ve been tempted to try, visiting farmers markets and specialty shops to enrich meals, not having to be perfect and making use of leftovers all you want, are just some of the creative adventures one can enjoy solo.
I discovered that I had a passion for developing recipes and preparing meals when I was in a long-term relationship years ago. After that ended, the saddest aspect for me was wondering if I’d ever be able to cook again. Soon after I was throwing dinner parties and ultimately cooking for another boyfriend, but when he accepted a promotion out of town this fall, I found myself cooking and eating alone, yet again. At the recommendation of a colleague, I discovered The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones (legendary editor of Julia Childs and James Beard), a practical book about the joys of cooking for one self.
Jones discusses that just because someone doesn’t have a dining companion it does not mean they can’t sit down and enjoy a savory dish. It is relaxing to go home at the end of a busy day and create something in the kitchen that you don’t have to apologize for if the end result is not perfect.
For those singletons out there cooking for themselves, take this downtime to seek out reliable sources of food, and experiment with soups, stews and stocks – excellent dishes for one because the leftovers can be frozen. An egg is also a cook’s friend because so many recipes call for them. Although cooking is a sensual experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t allow this alone time to let your senses play. Enjoy the feel of ingredients and observe what is happening to tastes as you go along. Drink in the smells and edit as you see fit.
Most importantly, don’t shy away from something because it might be considered extravagant for one – bake that dessert and splurge on the fresh lobster, don’t be afraid to purchase a wedge of cheese (you can always scrape off the mold), but remember soft-ripened cheeses need to be eaten first.
If a recipe yields for more than you know what to do with, why not share? It’s been my experience that when the garlic is sautéing the men come into the kitchen, so if you’re cooking for one and wish to place another setting at the table – chances are you’ll be doing so in no time.
Excerpted from the winter issue of Edible Buffalo.