Alone in the Kitchen

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Curled up on my couch, plate in hand. Vanilla-scented candle lit; the point of early evening where it’s not too bright but I do not yet need to turn on a light. Tart apple slices with creamy havarti cheese. Summer sausage. Crisp carrots with a spinach dip. Alone, I listen to love songs from Broadway, snuggle down in my robe and extremely old leopard-print slippers, and dream of words coming together.

I am reading a book that seems so situation-appropriate right now it’s almost funny. I ran across Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant while I was trying to find some books to take on vacation a few weeks ago. I remembered seeing it on Paperbackswap as something I might be interested in a while back, so I grabbed it and packed it in my bag. While I was too busy attending to the baby and playing pool with my sister to read as much as I thought I would, I did get around to starting it a few days ago.

The book is a collection of essays on eating alone. I confess I don’t mind eating alone in a restaurant. Cooking alone, however, is a completely different story. I love food; I love to eat; and yet, when I am by myself, I often come home, open the fridge, stare at it, and eat nothing. It’s not worth the trouble.

I am fascinated by the stories in this collection about what people cook for themselves. Saltines with cheese; anything that only uses one pan; soup; often, people cook the same thing over and over again without tiring of it (like asparagus).

I am not home for dinner by myself much, but if I am I pretty much fall back on two options: pierogies cooked with sauerkraut and Polish sausage or a plate of Granny Smith apples, havarti cheese, salami, vegetables, and spinach dip. Both dinners I would never expect Mr. V to eat. Things I like. Simple pleasures.

I’m confronted right now with the possibility of living just with Libbie during the week for months as we wait for our house to sell here in Nashville. Mr. V has to go to Chattanooga in August whether it has sold or not. It’s a frightening conjecture, but one I know many couples have gone through and survived. I may go literally insane trying to be a single, working mother…and I may either lose or gain 40 pounds. Cooking for myself is not my area of expertise. As one of the authors in the book explains, my joy in cooking is serving it to someone. I often tell people my spiritual gift is feeding people.

My relationship with food is so awkward, so strange: I love it, dream about it, fear it, hoard it. Eating alone, unrestricted by the foods my husband doesn’t like, makes me bite my nails. It could be a happy place … or my very own seventh circle of hell. No matter how much I wish it were just sustenance to me, it’s not. Too many years of battles, too many words read and eating plans attempted.

Dining alone. Oh, my.

What do you eat when you cook for yourself? How do you cook for 1?

6 thoughts on “Alone in the Kitchen

  1. I'm not very good at it. My husband's away for the summer and I spent the first few weeks not eating much, or not eating at regular times.

    Part of the reason I think it's hard is because you can't have nearly as many kinds of food on hand, or it will spoil. One kind of cheese, not three. Two or three vegetables or daily vegetable shopping.

    But last night I had a chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and tomato sauce. Pretty much everything I eat either has feta cheese in it, or tomato sauce on top, because I don't want to spend too long cooking.

  2. Most of the time these days, i *am* cooking for one. Like you, a good part of my joy in cooking comes from sharing it with someone. That's why i love making dinners with and for friends!

    Although if i make it a goal to just spoil myself . . .
    A meal similar to the one you described is always a good start.
    i also like to try something that appeals to me on a lot of levels – has several flavours that i like, foods that i adore – i love the smells and tastes and the admiring looks that my leftovers get the next day at work. 😉

  3. Right now I'm eating a baked potato topped with broccoli and cheese sauce by myself. (OK, and pita chips too, but just because I love them.) I made the taquitos and quesadillas from OAMC and can easily pull out single servings of those. When I make salmon, for example, I'll make enough for two meals and take the second to work the next day or just have it for supper the next night. Sometimes I'll even make casseroles and then freeze some of the leftovers in individual servings for lunches. I do plan my meals in advance to make sure I make good use of fresh ingredients.

    As far as the working single mom gig, you can totally do it. My advice: decide your priorities and cut other things out. Get an invite to a Mary Kay party? Skip it. Baby shower? Unless you feel completely obligated, pass on it. Sometimes these decision are hard. I often feel "obligated" just to be supportive, but I've realized that I can't do it all. Keep us updated!

  4. You posted awhile ago about your writing and while I haven't been reading your blog long, this is my favorite example of your writing skills. I was drawn in by the scene and comforted by the cadence in your words. I'm at work sitting at a cold, hard desk and yet I too felt like I was curled up on the couch reading a good book…yours.

  5. I eat artichokes when I'm alone. I look forward to reading this book–just requested it from the library!

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