Lately, "cooking for one" is "a hot topic" that food magazines and cookbooks are covering with patronizing gusto. A piece in the Washington Post offers a slew of practical tips on the joys of freezing and shopping and cooking in bulk, all of them good. (And many of which the 'belles had already cottoned to!) But the real issue probably isn't how to cook for one (same process, less food) or what to do with leftovers (save 'em!) Rather, it's working up the mental energy to bother.There was recently an anthology released, Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant (based on a terrific Laurie Colwin essay of the same name) composed entirely of essays on the pleasures of eating alone: the opportunities for iconoclastic experimentation and self-pampering. One assumes that virtuous French-woman-style lifestyle plans involve much of this sort of "because I'm worth it" behavior, and there's certainly something appealing about the fantasy of being the sort of woman who pours herself a glass of wine, whips up creme brulee for one and dines solo by candlelight because she enjoys her own company so much! For most of us, eating alone falls somewhere between this twee self-catering and the cliche of the lonely diner eating cold Chinese food or a cup of Ramen. In some ways, the whole "eating alone" phenomenon seems to make it a bigger deal than it needs to be — like you need to face the reality of a single existence and embrace it! Haven't people always cooked for themselves? Then too, it's not like most of us live in French villages or near great butchers: it can be hard to get just that one exquisite chicken breast or single fresh roll, not to mention pricey. I for one have never been so sensitive that it made me cry when I saw a recipe listing quantities for four — I can do basic division if needed and don't require my own, special recipes. Besides, when I cook four portions of a meal, it's not because I couldn't figure our how to make less or because I'm in denial and expect a bunch of phantom guests, but rather because if I'm going to the trouble, I want to get several days' worth of meals out of my work. I guess in the old days, single working girls weren't thought to eat much — those retro Helen Gurley Brown types were probably thought to either smoke their meals or let a date pick up the tab, and in a lot of ways "cooking for one" seems to be code for "women" — single women who like and appreciate good food. Or, alternatively, older people who, I guess the thinking goes, can't figure out how to cook for less than a whole family. And that's nice, but I think we can handle it. And you know, those days I have a bowl of cold cereal for dinner, it's not out of some deep self-loathing or lack of self-esteem. I do it because I can, and it's easy, and it's a luxury you don't have when you're cooking for other people. Oh, and it's really easy to measure a single serving. Cooking for One? That Means You Can Have Your Steak And Freeze It, Too. [Washington Post] Earlier: Why Takeout Is Evil And Other Stuff To Feel Guilty About
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