What I've been up to lately
First I'll begin by saying I've never been one to eat out at restaurants alone. I know there are people out there who are unphased by that sort of thing, but I'm not one of them. Now coffee or lunch is one thing--but sitting at a restaurant for a solo dinner isn't my cup of tea. One summer when I was finishing up graduate school in Boston, I decided to treat myself to a week at a Bed and Breakfast on the Cape. It was going to be my solo, independent adventure--and during the day, it was. I lounged on the beach reading book after book, strolled the different little towns looking in antique stores and eating ice cream cones, and rented a cruiser bike to explore the marshy trails. And then the sun set and the anxiety kicked in: what to do for dinner? What to do that night? I couldn't possibly go out by myself.
A friend gave me a little perspective, telling me not to be so taken with myself: you really think people are even noticing you or the fact that you're by yourself. Everyone has to eat. No one cares if you're doing it alone. In fact, no one in the restaurant cares about you period. Ouch. But she had a point. I was thinking that people would stare or wonder or feel sorry for me when, in fact, they were just enjoying their fish and chips like everyone else. So that helped. But still--I enjoy sharing a meal with someone else. Period. This goes for eating out in restaurants, but I've recently discovered it also goes for preparing meals at home.
And this brings me to the present moment--the moment in which I tell you that my relationship of twelve years recently ended. I'm thirty-one, so that was essentially my entire adult life. Suffice it to say, I've never really lived by myself for any extended period of time and here I find myself in a new apartment in San Francisco alone. Not exactly what I'd planned, but I suppose that's how those things usually work. So once again I remain quite busy during the day, but then I arrive home and stare into the fridge. I've been getting creative with bagged salads, chicken sausages, soup, or pasta. Breakfast for dinner has been a winner lately as are quesadillas with heaps of homemade guacamole. And ice cream, of course. Oh, and peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread. I've discovered it's kind of magical if you make it into a warm panino.
So when I wrote about the difficulties of cooking for one on my own blog recently, many of my readers chimed in with menu ideas, book suggestions, and general encouragement. These are the moments I cherish the time I spend on the blog--it truly is a little community. After seriously considering each comment, I decided to take their advice, checked out some of the books from the library and even purchased one that I really came to love. For this week's post, I thought I'd share with you the ins and outs of some solo eating and cooking books so, in the case that you should find yourself alone in your painfully over-priced apartment, you won’t be staring at an empty fridge or relying solely on Trader Joe's taquitos. Those can get old after awhile.
"Dinner alone is one of life's pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam" –Laurie Colwin, "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" from Home Cooking
Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself by Joyce Goldstein
This book was recommended to me by my blogging friend Janet Gardner of Pretty Green Girl, and it's downright likeable. Goldstein doesn't lament the fact that you're eating alone. In fact, the premise is simple: singles represent the fasted-growing segment of the U.S. population (7) yet there are few cookbooks geared towards actual gourmet recipes for one. We see many books geared towards young singles cooking on a budget, but Goldstein wanted to talk about sauces, and Sicilian swordfish, and risotto with mushrooms and peas. Leafing through the book, I found many dishes I wanted to try. And the ingredient list made perfect sense: the quantities were small; I didn't have to sit down with my calculator and cut the recipe down by 2/3 (and often recipes don't reduce all that precisely). Her section on Stocking the Pantry is useful and I loved her Sauce Chapter (Romesco, Peanut Sauce, Mango chutney…). She also mentions ways to recreate each meal into a "New Creation" using leftovers. This seemed a little too planned out and a bit depressing to me for some reason, but I get the idea. It's just, how many days a week can a girl eat pork loin used in different ways? I giggled while reading her suggestions on looking for smaller bottles of wine. Really? Isn't this a time when we should all be drinking more? Much more? While I'll admit that my spinach sometimes will go bad, my wine never does. But all in all, this is a useful and relatively timeless book to add to the collection.