Cooking for One

cooking for oneOne day at work, I began preparing for my ritual of the "working lunch" so common in my office. I removed my dish from the microwave and carefully lifted the lid to unleash the heavenly smell of homemade butternut squash soup when I felt like I was being watched. You know that feeling. One of my co-workers was giving me a wistful look as if she hadn't eaten in days. I eyed her suspiciously and clutched my bowl of warm soup a little more tightly, turning away.

"What do you have todaaaaay? It looks healthy and smells sooooo good," she whined. When I told her that I'd spent some time over the previous weekend cooking so that I'd have plenty of good leftovers for the week, I could see her eyes glaze over. I found out that she doesn't cook and finds it too "hard" because she lives alone.

 

 

I encounter this all the time since I have lots of single friends. Even people who aren't single seem to hold the steadfast belief that cooking for one is either too hard, not cost-effective, or maybe not even possible. And to that, I say, "Bullshit!"

Not only is cooking for one possible, it is healthy, rewarding, economical and consistent with a sustainable lifestyle. I was a busy singleton until just a handful of years ago, and I learned to weave the joy of creating delicious meals into my daily routine. If you're spending all kinds of time at the gym or have a weekly mani/pedi appointment but eat a dinner of cereal, frozen entrees, canned soup or potato chips in front of the TV after work, you're not taking good care of yourself. Aren't you worth it?

Eating out at restaurants is expensive and, in many restaurants, very little food is actually made from scratch. That bed of rice pilaf that your dried out chicken breast sits on is most likely from a box and just prepared on site. In fact, many casual restaurants simply assemble prepared processed foods on your plate, call it dinner, and charge you a premium for Cleaning your dishes.

Most restaurant foods travel a long way before ending up on your plate. The factory farmed meats and conventionally-grown produce take a toll on the environment through pollution while excess fossil fuels are used in processing, packaging and moving the food across the country. I was once on a business trip on Long Island in the summer, and I was served a restaurant salad topped with pathetic, pink, mushy tomatoes. I could have driven five miles in either direction to a farm stand for succulent local tomatoes, but the restaurant manager told me that everything comes from "corporate" and is either grown in Florida or California. When you cook for yourself, you regain control of the ingredients and can make environmentally-sound decisions.

Cooking a meal for someone says, "I want to give you something yummy, nourish your body and take good care of you."

Finally, at some point, you will want to cook a meal for another person - your parents, the parents of your current flame, your husband, your children. Imagine how much more smoothly it will go when you already know your way around the kitchen. Cooking skills are only developed through practice, and you may as well practice on yourself!

If you're motivated to try cooking for one, these simple tips will ensure your success.

1. Stock your kitchen pantry. Pantry basics are building blocks for great meals. If you keep them on hand at all times, you'll be less tempted to to go out. Subscribe to Tomato Envy (see sidebar), and you'll get a FREE guide that will show you how it's done, including a printable shopping list.

2. Embrace your single-ness! You can cook exactly what you like, without regard for the likes and dislikes of anyone but you. And, eating alone doesn't need to be lonely. Create some ambiance in your dining space with candles, music, nice lighting, and a glass of wine.

cooking for one3. Learn to use your freezer. You know, for something other than storing vodka. Many recipes can be scaled down, but some are perfect for making a full batch, or even doubling the recipe, and stowing portions in the freezer. When you're feeling exhausted after a long day, you'll be minutes away from a delicious, healthy, and low-cost dinner at home.

4. Shop like a European. Plan meals and shop every few days instead of making one big shopping trip every few weeks. Getting away from processed foods means buying fresh ingredients that have a shorter shelf life.

5. Redefine dinner. Small, healthy snacks can make a satisfying, no-fuss dinner. For instance, try some pita and hummus with a big green salad. Have an omelet with fresh mushrooms and chives. Try grilled eggplant slices served with olives, good cheese, and a hard boiled egg.

6. Invest in some cookbooks. There are seemingly millions of cookbooks with drool-worthy recipes and photography that are sure to inspire you in the kitchen. Some are geared specifically for solo cooking like Cooking for One: A Seasonal Guide to the Pleasure of Preparing Delicious Meals for Yourself by the Culinary Institute of America and The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones.

Do you cook for yourself? What advice do you have for others?

 

 

 

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