Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eating Alone

I’m reading a book right now titled, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone. It is a collection of essays from famous and not so famous people on cooking and eating alone.

“Dinner alone is one of life’s little pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.”

This book has me thinking about my own eating habits. This is not hard for me to think about since I love to eat! But I love to eat good food. In fact, I will sometimes pass up a meal of not that great food, because it is almost too much trouble to eat something I don’t really care about.

When I was first divorced and the boys were at their dad’s house, I would order some good take-out food, go home and eat on the couch watching reruns of some stupid show. It was too painful to cook for myself. There were many nights that a few crackers, a granola bar or even graham crackers and a glass of milk were dinner. You see, cooking and feeding others had become a gift of love. It is a way to nourish other people both physically and emotionally.

I have always loved to cook and my mother really encouraged this desire. She baked with me and taught me many techniques and recipes, but the best thing she did for me was to turn me loose in the kitchen (as long as I cleaned up!). She cooked good food, and my parents took me with them when they travelled and always took me to nice restaurants. I had my own food processor before I even moved out of the house and my mom made sure that my kitchen was always stocked with good pots, pans, utensils and of course the necessary ingredients.

It helps that my mom also gardens, cooks, bakes and preserves. I know what homemade bread tastes like and there is no comparison to store bought bread. Shortly after college I was making lunch to take to work and realized that I was using tuna my mom had canned (my uncle had caught), on bread that she had baked and pickles that she had preserved! The only thing bought from the store was the mayo!

I spent many hours in the kitchen with my mom learning to preserve tomatoes, peaches, pears and pickles. We made cheese from fresh goat’s milk and always had a family dinner at 7.

I went to college in Santa Barbara in the early 90’s and found the Farmer’s Market! My roommate was not an adventurous eater, but I started experimenting and cooking even more. A group of friends would get together every Wednesday night at each other’s house and fix some yummy meal. Homemade Chinese food, handmade pasta, grilled salmon – I loved those nights of community and of course amazing food.

In my early 20’s I went to Europe for a month and that changed my eating and cooking habits even more! For the first time in my life I realized that tomatoes tasted good! When I came home my parents and friends were more than willing to try my new found cooking enthusiasm with all things Italian!

I had a fairly crazy marriage that lasted only three years but with three pregnancies and babies thrown in the mix along with being away from family, my cooking became more utilitarian. I found that staying at home I always cook breakfast and lunch, but by dinner time I’m tired, the kids are tired and I really didn’t want to clean the kitchen one more time! Darrin change that. I found that I loved cooking for someone who loved my meals, and as an added bonus he cleaned the kitchen for me when I put the boys to bed!

But now that I’m eating alone again, I have found myself back in the routine of cooking breakfast and lunch for the boys and dinner is hit or miss. I still love to cook and my boys love my food, but something is missing – it’s much harder to convince myself that I’m worth the trouble.

Thank God for leftovers and the freezer! And in all honesty we eat really well. This morning we had pan fried mushroom risotto (leftovers heated in a skillet until the rice gets crunchy on the outside) with a pan-fried, over-easy fresh egg on top. Lunch was homemade chicken tortilla soup and butternut squash soup (strangely good with crisp tortilla chips as well!). Everything was from the freezer and took all of 15 minutes to pull out, heat up and throw a chicken breast into the boiling broth. Even the butternut was pureed and frozen from a previous meal. But last night when the boys were gone, I pulled out left over grilled potatoes with rosemary, some blue cheese dressing and ate them standing in front of the kitchen sink at 9:30 because I hadn’t bothered to eat and I was too hungry to go to bed. Sometimes I pamper myself and cook an extravagant meal all for myself, but it all depends on my mood!

So, here is my question to you. What do you do when you eat alone? Do you enjoy it? Do you barely get through it? Or do you pamper yourself?


Darrin F. said...

You're the best cook I've ever met!

Funny that last night it was just me and the remaining 9 trout the kids and I caught on Sunday. So I fileted them and baked them under a deliciously yummy cream sauce.

Two and a half years ago on a night alone I would have ordered pizza and put the trout in the freezer where they would have remained until the year 2013. Thanks! :)

Jenn said...

Ok, that sounds amazing and wonderful!