Dinner for One?

I’m still learning to cook alone.

It’s funny; when I’m eating with others I usually want to spend time talking with them–chilling at a restaurant or laughing at a bar–rather than cooking them dinner. Last night, I ate some (admittedly delicious) takeout Orange Chicken, for once all by my lonesome in my house. I wondered why I hadn’t simply made some kind of Asian chicken myself, and realized: when other people are around, cooking is becomes this thrilling, unifying Group Activity. Everybody’s got something they can do. Got no knife skills? That’s okay, tear off those cilantro leaves. Scared of plants? Awesome, stir this pot for the next thirty minutes. Just here for a taste? Well, what do you think?

Also, my greatest successes in the kitchen have come with company or when it was for company. I love the solidarity you feel, tasting something alongside your sous-chef. I love the cooking-by-wiki way my brothers prepare chili. And, being as egotistical as I am, I love a flurry of compliments from the peanut gallery once the food is served (believe me, this only works with other people. Complimenting yourself is kinda depressing).

Of course, I’ve spoken about the pride I feel whenever I make something good. But the desire for that pride is always tempered by a combination of laziness and sheer terror. When I step into a kitchen alone, see the dutch oven looming, prepare my mise-en-place like a good little foodie and find it’s twice as big as I expected…I imagine just how much I can screw up. In my head I hear Statler and Waldorf cackling from the balcony.

“Oh, look, here comes my favorite part of the meal!”
“What, the main course?”
“No, the the Pepto-Bismol!”

It’s a little absurd that I’m more eager to try for my peers than I am for an audience of none, don’t you think? Particularly given just how good food can be when you give it your total, undivided attention. I need to remember that cooking isn’t necessarily about being impressive or perfect; it’s about making something that tastes good, and feeling utterly happy with your results. Regardless of whether or not you’ve got an audience.

No matter what these guys say, we can’t give into kitchen fear, or balk at cooking just ’cause we’re only doing it for one. After all, when I make a mess out of a dish and eat it anyway, at least I know I made the attempt; when I call in a cardboard-like Domino’s thin-crust, I’ve already admitted defeat.

Screw laziness, screw terror. I want more pride.

I think I’ll start with this: Chicken Lasagna. Sounds pretty delicious, and with pre-cooked chicken that’s one less step for me to screw up.

Other simple dishes to shut the muppets up:
Encrusted Walnut Chicken
Quick Chinese Pepper Steak
San Francisco Pork Chops

-Jim should probably read this book at some point, too

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  • http://clumsycook.com clumsy

    Tonight is the first night that I’m eating alone is a long while… and even though I had like 6 hours to prepare myself something grand, I bought a tuna sandwich instead. I think I have some pride issues too!

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Sarah

    I have found in my past years that cooking for one is much more harder than cooking for let’s say two. I was ordering carry out a lot when I use to live alone and only cook when I had guests over. And I love to cook! It just wasn’t fun to cook just for me, plus I always had leftovers and I am “one of those” who hates to eat leftovers so I am sad to say, I had a lot of food go to waste.

    Unfortunately, by ordering carry out all time, I become somewhat broke so I was forced to start cooking for one, which ended up as a good thing. Not only could I practice cooking certain recipes but if they turned out really bad, I was the only judge.

    In your situation Jim, I think if you want to become a better cook, and cook more than this is a great opportunity to do it, by yourself that is. You can play and practice and mess up all you want, because like I said above, you are the only one trying it out ….Now finding recipes that feed only one might be some trouble.

  • http://www.meninaprons.net adam

    Even just ccoking for two can be daunting. I like to cook good stuff for two, then take leftovers to work … or give away samples at work to hungry employees.

  • http://whatdoyoudowiththat.blogspot.com/ Marsha

    Cooking schmooking. Do you really own Stadler and Waldorf puppets? You RULE!

  • Jerry

    YOu guys rock!…Those muppet puppets are even better!!!! Cook for one by cooking for 4, then take it to work and share, they will love having left overs and the next time it is there time. It can get costly feeding everyone else, but if you all take one day then you only have to cook once a week like that and you eat all week on others left overs. This is a great way to get recipes and to try other foods, I did it with Lao and Vietnamese where I worked and then started cooking their foods too. They loved it! As did I.

  • Alice

    Some people have a lot to learn. I have cooked for husbands, children, aand a very large family. Now that all are gone or on their own, I am alone. Cooking what “I” like is a wonderful treat and I perish the thought that I would bring “take out” home. I’m loving every minute of it. Oh Yes, In God We Trust>

  • http://www.meathub.com MeatHub Inc.

    I love orange chicken. By the way, the Muppets rock :)

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