Posted by: kaegw | May 12, 2008

Cooking for One

Repeatedly I hear folks telling me that it is really hard to cook just for yourself.

I can readily agree.  At this point in my life, I live with my wife and frequently our children drop by for a meal.  We easily cook for each other.  My wife, Amy, sometimes suffers cooking blocks where she finds it difficult to be motived to cook. I, too, suffer from that, but usually I call it lack of choice in the ice box or cabinet.

But cooking for one does have its challenges.  Sometimes it seems pointless.  Why not eat out of a can or frozen package?  it’s so much easier:  cooking and clean-up takes as long for one as two; plus there are leftovers to deal with and, even for one, lots of dishes.

Why is this?  Is cooking and eating really a social act?  Do we prepare food for the recognition or the pride in preparing food ourselves?  Where does the justification and satisfaction come from when we cook for more than ourselves?

When I was young I remember coming downstairs early in the morning to find my Mom had been in the kitchen early, blanching and peeling peaches.  All by herself, working away.

But peaches were only the beginning of the meal.  Mom would also serve eggs, bacon and fresh squeezed juice.  It was a large menu for a group of chilfren, and sometimes guest, who all expected this service.  Where did Mom find the motivation and creativity?  And, with very little thanks or recognition. 

I don’t think it’s itellect, but more instinct.  It has to be a basic, almost primordial gut command.  And now, my sisters and brothers are exactly the same!

I think some of it is taught; maybe the art form or the menu at least.  But not the need to produce food for others, but not ourselves.

So, back to my first question:  Why don’t we like to cook for ourselves?  Are we not worthy of our own art?  Don’t we need our own respect?

I suspect its pride in front of others and lack of respect for ourselves.  Or, maybe it’s just plain laziness.  We do often eat out alone and eat well at that.  Or, is eating out a hedonistic respite from cooking for one?

I see in myself a lack of inspiration when cooking for one.  But why?  That takes me back to pride.  Let me show off! I can create this and produce that.  You see, I did this for you!  Hmmmmm….., I hate to say that about myself.  But I can’t come up with any other excuse.

Is there another reason I could use?

Perplexed in WV – Hall

www.thecrazybaker.com     

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Responses

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  2. I, too, find myself less inspired when cooking only for myself (although I am never unhappy to have left-overs). Part of it is the time and expense it takes to make really good food, but I think a more important issue is that I view food as a communal event; food is the glue that holds social gatherings together. Somehow, except when I’m concerned about my health, the ritual of food preparation seems unwarranted by my lone cravings.

  3. Let’s face it – not everyone enjoys cooking. So, whether it is for one or a crowd, some folks just plain don’t like doing it. On the other hand, if you’re a foodie (like me), you might enjoy “creating” in the kitchen. Of course, I don’t always feel like cooking either, but when the creative mood strikes – watch out! I do have a hint or two for “cooking for oners” – keep it simple; repackage (meat for instance) into “for one” sizes (freeze the rest); make extra for the freezer; eat more raw food and cook only the entree; prepare most of the meal the evening before when you’re doing dishes – won’t be as much to do when you’re tired and hungry; enjoy the wonderful food God gave us and keep the marathon cooking for guests.

  4. I know what you mean – but I have developed a way to make meals not only delicious but less time taking. When I get inspired to prepare a gourmet dish, I always prepare more than one of it, and usually up to five of it. So, in a given creative, inspired week I could have up to 35 wonderful frozen dishes in the freezer. Eating in front of a television during the winter is pretty mundane, but in the spring, the summer and the fall I prepare a tray (including a glass of wine of course) and go into the garden and sit under an umbrella and meditate while watching the sparkling twinkles of light in the branches of the trees and bushes by the creek, listen to the birds, observe the flowers, trees and blooming glory and become entranced by all that beauty. It’s taken awhile to make La Paix the little bit of heaven it is to me, in fact, when extolling the beauty it has become to my son while we raked leaves off the woodland paths on Mother’s Day, he interrupted my rapture to say, “That’s why I’m so glad you had twenty eight years to fix it mother!”

  5. i just could care less about cooking for myself. eating by myself is also unpleasant to a degree but then i remind myself how lucky i am to be eating at all.
    you know the interesting thing is that after i have been to our farmers’ market, i enjoy cooking for myself quite a bit more becasue the experience
    takes on a richness of sights and smells and tastes. so maybe it is that the group experience over rules the mondanity (looked it up) of shelf food while the sheer beauty of fresh small farm food is inspiration enough.

  6. oops mundanity

  7. When my kids were both gone to college, I reveled in the freedom to fix the foods I liked that they didn’t and to buy expensive foods that I wouldn’t buy while they were here, because they would be gone in a flash and I would be lucky to get any. And if I wanted to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, there was no one to say, “That again? So eating alone was a private celebration. But it did get a little old, and when I am tired and hungry, it’s much harder to summon the energy to fix something nice just for myself.

    One thing I always enjoy fixing alone is a salad. I make it in the bowl I am going to eat it from (no leftovers), and I have accumulated a variety of ingredients that make it a complete delicious meal. Besides the usual greens and salad vegetables, I add pecans or other nuts, dried cherries, feta cheese (which my kids couldn’t stand), some granola (idea courtesy of Destiny’s “Trust Me” salad), apple, avocado (if available), a spoonful of tabouli or humus (whatever is around), pickled beets, dilly beans, jicama…. and I’m always looking for new ideas. A glass of wine, some sourdough, and it’s a feast.

    And I can read while I eat, which is not very companionable thing with others present.

  8. Hi Hall! I think eating alone is a chance to indulge in guilty-pleasure foods, ones that you’d be embarassed to admit loving. I like to make Velveeta mac’n’cheese and I like to add canned clams to it. It sound gross, but it’s really good. Of course I would only eat such a thing when I’m by myself.


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