Cooking for One

I must admit, I’m a bit tipsy right now.

Plum Market was having a 2-for-1 deal on “Fat Bastard” Shiraz last week (two weeks ago?), so of course I bought two. I mean… $5 for a bottle of wine that’s not 3-buck-Chuck? Sure!

I took one bottle over to my friends’ place on election night, and the second bottle has been open for more than a week. It needed to be polished off.

To my pleasant surprise, the wine (which had quite a bite to it when first opened, and I thought would be gross) mellowed a lot over the week. I’m not a big fan of Shiraz, but this was pretty tasty! It had a lot of sediment in it, which creeped me out, but maybe that’s how it was supposed to be… or maybe that’s why it was on sale. Who knows. I certainly don’t know anything about wine, other than having an interest in drinking it.

Anyway, three glasses later, and you can be assured that my face is now bright red.

What was I supposed to do?!

I am reading a book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Notes on Cooking for One and Dining Alone.  It is a collection of essays and short stories on just that: cooking for one and dining alone. I read one or two essays a night, with dinner.  It has me thinking about my own dining- alone rituals.  Although I live with two other people, most of the time we each cook our own thing and eat it whenever we’re hungry.  Sometimes that overlaps, sometimes it doesn’t.  Occasionally we’ll plan “family dinners,” but with the semester wearing on that is increasingly rare.

It also has me thinking about people I have cooked and dined with in the Past:

There was the guy in high school who fancied himself a chef. He opened a jar of Ragú-brand sauce and added a bay leaf.  I might not have resented it so much if he couldn’t chop herbs way better than I could.

There was First Serious Boyfriend. I still have the organic bulk popping corn (now in a Decorative Jar) he bought while visiting me three years ago.  His specialty was homemade Kettle Corn. With good reason.  We got tipsy off of sangria, and he also made good frittatas from organic local eggs and potatoes.

My first roommate and I would indulge in pints of Ben and Jerry’s in our freshman/ sophomore dorm room. One dinner meal credit would get you a whole pint in the dining hall. Soooo worth it.

I like to bake, and started as soon as I got my first apartment. I pawned my cookies, cookie-bars, and muffins off on the cycling team and random (usually male) roommates over the years.  Banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, apple cinnamon muffins. Varying degrees of healthiness.

My best friend from undergrad (who now lives in Ithaca, sadness) and I read the same recipe websites.  When we were both in Michigan, we would have baking and cooking extravaganzas (E– if you’re reading this, we need to plan another cooking-centric get-together soon 🙂  ).  Both of our fall-back plans involves opening a café specializing in delicious baked goods and (well, for me at least) healthy small plates.

There have been assorted friends and roommates. I like feeding people, and am usually willing to sample whatever they have cooked.  My cohort seems to be especially interested in food.  I have a couple of good friends who put a comparable amount of time and effort into thinking about and preparing their food as I do, and sometimes we exchange meals and ideas.

My current (female) roommate seems to be a fan of the really dense, dry whole wheat/ amaranth biscuits I made the other night. She begged me for the recipe and promised to keep us in a steady supply. Honestly, I thought they were a disaster.

Speaking of disasters: I try to experiment only when eating alone.  There have been a few exceptions.  Note the Cauliflower Soup Disaster of September 2008– that friend has not dined with me since.  Or the “fusion” cabbage soup I made this weekend for another friend (cabbage, Adzuki beans, red peppers, sesame oil, ginger, garlic). I thought it was pretty tasty, but he made a comment suggesting otherwise.

When experimenting alone, I am the only one who has to deal with the results.

That said, it’s not all up in the air when I have no one to please but myself.  I have developed a little ritual for Sunday nights (or, if I forget, Monday nights): Pizza Night.  To most people, this means ordering in some Pappa John’s or Dominoes.

To that, I say “Oh HELL no!”

Earlier in the semester, I made a big batch of pizza dough, divided it into single-sized portions, and stuck it in plastic baggies in the freezer. It keeps pretty well, though the longer you freeze it, the more likely you are to have “super thin crust” pizza.   Every Sunday morning, I pull one out and let it thaw on the counter during the day.

Toppings are anything but traditional, and usually whatever I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning.  For example: in August and September, the height of tomato season, I might stew a variety of meaty heirloom tomatoes with garlic, onions, and fresh basil, and then top it with some sauteéd zucchini and eggplant. Don’t forget the goat cheese.

Tonight, I caramelized some of the Huge Green Pumpkin I bought a few weeks ago (I have about 1/8th of it left, the rest in cubes in the freezer) with onions and garlic, used that as the “sauce,” and then sauteéd some broccoli (the last from the garden) with mizuna greens, fennel, thyme, and more garlic.  Topped with ample quantities of goat and parmesan cheese.  Don’t forget the glass (or three) of wine.

The beauty of dining alone: you can eat as much garlic as you’d like.

And a good thing, too, because the amount of garlic in my food is directly proportional to its deliciousness factor.


2 Responses to “Cooking for One”

  1. 1 Erin November 11, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Yes. We need cooking fun time. Thanksgiving break is looking crazy with two families to visit in 4 days… but December could be promising! Today I’ve already made apple pancakes, and winter squash-cashew rice and red cabbage salad are on the menu for tonight 🙂 Can you tell I have a day off?

  2. 2 Doc November 17, 2008 at 11:15 am

    MMM I want in our your dining alone 🙂 Although I guess then it wouldn’t be dining alone anymore… but you can still experiment! That’s the beauty of cooking. All my favorites were invented b/c I was missing ingredients and had to use up random bits and scraps.

    Also, pizza is great for using up leftovers! Anything tastes good on pizza. Almost.

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