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Cooking for yourself

This is an exercise in knitting several threads together: What You Wouldn't Serve To Anyone Else, Favorite School Cafeteria Food, Things That Don't Quite Make Me Puke...

I read many times over the assertion that people don't really COOK if it's just for them. I do not understand that at all. I am one of my favorite chefs and my own best customer. I know what I like and don't, how much of what I can or will eat, which culinary rules can be glossed over or forgotten completely. Mrs. O, even as we speak, is off in Grand Rapids enjoying the company of her fellow button collectors, and do I languish here in sorrow? No; though it's certainly true that I'd rather she be here than not, I do like the fact that I can fry eggplant, cook sweet peppers, boil up a mess of greens, and do a whole lot of other culinary exercises that produce foods which she does not enjoy. And I can share these things with a man who truly loves them: me.

Just this past half-hour, for instance, I assembled two gratin dishes. One was simply leftover steamed broccoli with a cheese sauce and crumbs. The other combined a range of leftovers: first a bed of mashed potato, then a layer of a skillet dish I made a few months back and froze, consisting of macaroni, canned beans, shredded pork, tomatoes, onion and some powdered chile. Yes, macaroni over potatoes. Got a problem with that? The chef doesn't, nor does his customer. And if it turns out to be crap, the chef will not take the criticism personally.

I think of it as a sort of audition...

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  1. I'm not quite sure what your post/rant is, but I agree that the "let's gross each other out" posts are redundant. I posted "what you eat yourself" with a lettuce sandwich as an example, it was silly but I wasn't trying to find out about gross food. I think we've had plenty of it already --"what your family made" "weirdest food" "what everyone likes" -- all great posts but now we know a lot of us like cream of mushroom soup. great.
    I personally don't "cook" (meaning elaborately) for myself much because I don't have time and I can make something healthy with lots of flavor without much effort. If I were having someone over though, I would be more likely to choose one of my risotto or pasta dishes over an improvisational three spice shrimp curry with heavy cream and jasmine rice, the latter being much less refined but very fast. I also have spent periods of time cooking for others, but am now cooking just for myself--which is not as fun for me. That was sort of the point, how do we extract maximum enjoyment if we don't like to cook for ourselves.

    4 Replies
    1. re: fara

      My point, if I had one, is that I *DO* cook elaborately for myself, mostly because I'm in a better position to appreciate it than just about anyone else.

      I am also more likely to take a dangerous shortcut, just to see if it works...and because if it doesn't, then I'm the one to blame.

      1. re: Will Owen

        I'm definitely with you on the "no one appreciates me like I do" front. I love cooking for people so that they'll try and enjoy new things, but often I do feel like it's a lot of trouble for not much response. I can slave away for hours creating the perfect paella, but no one in the room other than me and my SO will truly appreciate how long it took to gather the perfect spices, source out the freshest seafood, find the best sausage, wash out the giant Le Creuset, put it all together, and time the finish of the dish to perfectly match the arrival of the guests. Which is nothing against them; I don't expect everyone to share my obsession with food, but sometimes knowing that they won't know any better makes me willing to just serve some spaghetti and meatballs instead of kicking it up a few degrees of difficulty.

        It's still fun to cook for people, but there's more adventure and thrill when it's just me and my guy. And so I'll save my wackiest cooking projects for when it's just the two of us, or even for when it's just me and I have all the time in the world to putter around and do things my way.

        1. re: Pei

          Now you're getting on my wavelength. The best reason - maybe the ONLY reason - I have for wanting to retire is that now I can do exactly that: putter around and do things my way. Go to the Asian and Latino markets, the farmer's markets; find the butchers and fishmongers and greengrocers who have stuff I'm looking for, or often stuff I had never even heard of before; put things on to simmer or stew in the crockpot or the double boiler or a slow oven while I'm upstairs online talking to the likes of you, and maybe doing a little graphic work to pay for the groceries. There are worse ways of passing the time, for sure.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Yup. Not to mention it's cheaper to buy grassfed beef, fresh seasonal local produce, a solid bottle of wine, and gourmet chocolate to use in the dessert for one than for six.

    2. For me, cooking for myself involves things the bf doesn't like. So when he's out of town, i go to town. Liver and onions. Salmon, trout, smoked fish. It's a guilty pleasure thing for me. Like playing BeeGees or ABBA. But I do have friends that have similar tastes - one orders an extra anchovy pizza when her partner is out of town. And I used to know a guy who would only cook veal when his veggie bf was out of town.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bryan

        Me too. When the SO's away, I take the opportunity to cook the stuff he's not wild about: dishes with lots of hot chili, the Nigella watermelon salad (ok so that's not really cooking). It's definitely a pleasure, though not necessarily guilty!

        Also, it's a great time to experiment and take risks that I wouldn't take when cooking for others. If something turns out bad, I can just dump it and nobody's the wiser.

      2. I never cook for myself, unless you count a grilled cheese sandwich. I don't like to cook. It's a burden (for me).

        My brother, who has been single all of his 54 year-old life, loves to cook, for himself and for others. I always get a spectacular birthday dinner from him. For his birthday, I take him out <g>.

        On any given day, I can call Bill and ask him what he's having for dinner and he will tell me a long loving tale that involves something terrific like pork roast, or a whole chicken, etc. He gets real joy from it.

        1. If my husband is away I live on leftovers or foods I've made and frozen. If there are none (pretty unlikely) I'll probably throw together some pasta and vegetables. I love cooking for just the two of us. DH will try anything once, even foods he thinks he hates. He enjoys all aspects of cooking - selecting the dishes, shopping for strange ingredients, trying exotic combinations - and he cleans up. It's a pleasure cooking for someone who appreciates what you do.

          But cooking for other people is a whole other issue. We have friends who are vegetarian or vegan, don't eat a whole host of things we love (eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers, chiles, fish, seafood, curry) so dinners are dumbed down to a level of blandness which I find boring.

          1. Completely agree. I live alone, no significant other, and friends with varying degrees of interest in food. As much as I like to cook for other people, I often cook three-course meals for myself, just so I can try out new recipes without the pressure of pleasing anybody else. Example of a recent dinner: bulgur salad with pomegranate molasses and pinenuts, chicken legs braised in figs and honey, and roasted green beans. I'm generally happy to eat leftovers for lunch, but I'm starting to realize, as I age and my metabolism slows down, that cooking a whole pie, or making a quart of ice cream to eat all by my lonesome, is not such a good idea :)

            I had a roommate for awhile, a good friend who I love, and I enjoyed cooking for both of us, but I did get annoyed when she asked if I could roast chicken without the skin on!

            1 Reply
            1. re: AppleSister

              Ditto. Live alone, no SO, and I at least once a week make full-blown meals for myself, eating leftovers for lunch at work (although I often try and cut down on quantities of the original menu, so I'm not eating the same leftovers for a full week!).

              Pot roasts, stews, whole roasting chickens, pork loins, etc. all get made in my house. And enjoyed. And experimented on, since I'm the only one who will say "Ewwwww! Whadjya go and make something with THAT ingredient? That's gross!" I just tell myself to shut up and eat what I put in front of me. :-) And then don't make that recipe again.