Of late, I've read two really great pieces by food writers about meals they’ve assembled in the absence of their significant others: in the first, Amanda Hesser's then-boyfriend, now-husband is out of town in a chapter of Cooking For Mr. Latte, and she finds ways to make indulgent meals with minimal ingredients and work. In the next, Julie Powell writes about an attempt to keep herself sustained, at least nutritionally, while separated from her husband last year. I’ve thought about both all too much this week as my Alex has been away on business, and I’m notoriously lax about constructing meals of nutritional value without the greater cause of the two of our waistlines. For once, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to not just mope.
Sunday, it started with a $5 mushroom. Yep, just one. Without a husband behind me at the grocery to all-too-rationally point out the possible irrationality of purchasing a fresh porcini mushroom at thirty freaking dollars a pound, I went for it. I sliced it thinly with an inner, white stalk of celery, an endive, some parmesan, and a mostly lemon juice vinaigrette. What I desperately wanted was a replica salad I’d had at an unassuming Italian restaurant a block from our apartment a few months ago that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. What I received, though, was something better: me, by myself, eating a ridiculously indulgent meal that I might never replicate in the company of another. A glass of wine, some bread, and a little dishwashing later, it’s been ages since I felt so smugly self-satisfied.
I was on a roll. Monday, I poached an egg and some asparagus, sprinkled them with a mustardy-viniagrette, tiny slices of goat cheese Ang had left at our place, and truffle salt (yet another purchase that made my husband groan, you know, until he tried it), and mixed a little green salad. Again, I was trying to recreate some cross between two dishes I’d had out at restaurants that were unexpectedly awesome, flavors I just couldn’t get off my tastebuds. And god, it was so good.
There’s something awesome about cooking for yourself, your own very self, a veritable feast. Being married and wholly smitten, I don’t spend a lot of time these days chasing things I’ve locked in my head that I’m not sure make sense to other people. I thought of something when we were in Paris a few weeks ago: I’ve spent almost 100 percent of the last two-plus years within five feet of a single person. It’s a sweet but almost terrifying revelation that you almost forget what it is that you did with your time when you were by yourself. Cooking for one and not caving to the Call of the Chinese Take-Out Menus these last couple days, I’ve gotten a piece of something essential and unintentionally sidetracked back.
Fear not, though, tomorrow’s going to be all about me reconnecting with old buddy Kung Pao. I can only be wholesome for so long.
Funny--just had a similar evening last nite except I was inspired by Giada de Laurentis's episode on cooking for one. I love it when you don't have to share ;)
I love cooking for one even when my husband is home. Monday I made the bean recipe you mentioned in "Paris Detox" it is delicious. I added mushrooms (mostly because I had some leftovers from the night before and was afraid to waste them) and I have been eating it alone for 2 days, tonight will be the third.
2 | Hillary | April 5, 2006 10:39 AM
I LOVE cooking only for myself...and as a single gal, I do it all the time. One night, I spent a ridiculous amount of money at Grand Central Market. I had steamed halibut, Teleggio on a crusty baguette, fresh baby carrots and french beans, it was wonderful.
Though I must say, count your blessings...when the money runs out and/or you tire of dining alone, marital bliss starts to sound very appealing.
This is interesting and boring at the same time. Life is good, eh?
4 | Helen | April 5, 2006 08:10 PM
that's exactly how i feel most times i fend for myself - i used to cook for myself all the time, but now i loose my motivation. maybe this will inspire me.
Help! I need help! My food groups have become: Indian, Chinese, and Mexican!
I LOVE cooking for myself and for anyone else, but lately I've been so busy, career move, extra job, long hours, that when I get home, I'm too tired to cook, eat bad take out and get depressed.
What's a food lover on a tight schedule to do?
I finally got to back-reading some Gourmets last night (before I spilled my wine all over them, typical) and I noticed they have some quick recipes in the front of each issue that look interesting but not too ingredient heavy. Really great looking stuff.
If all else fails, you can't go wrong with either roasting or sauteeing any mix of vegetables and onions, garlic with spices and tossing them with rice, couscous, or pasta. It's one of those clean-out-the-fridge/pantry meals. Anything goes.
When I am cooking for myself I make dishes that my spouse would rather die than eat...one of my favs is Vietmanese salad rolls with peanut sauce.
I've seen a couple of Barefoot Contessa shows on the Food Network and must say her dishes look scrumptous & easy...she is on my gotta try list.
I love that Julie Powell starts her piece with a quote from Buffy - "...stylish yet affordable boots...". No wonder I admire the gal so much!
Nice salad combinations - very adventurous.
I like your voice!! I can relate to the newlywed tone as well!
I love the Mr Latte book and made the dunp-it cake for my sister's b'day.
I made the garlic soup last night to use for lunch all week- it's the one from the NYT Mag this Sun, where you poach an egg in the broth. Sounds yummy.
I should write more about food and less about blood.
how do you people eat your own cooking? I'm so impressed! While I'm actually a good cook, the reality is after working that hard I can't even bear to look at my own food. That's where Pizza Hut comes in. Or bread with some chicken liver pate and a cup of tea (I'm weird, I know. Learning to deal)