I live alone, so mostly cook for one, but that does not mean I am good at it. At getting the servings right, I mean (though sometimes I’m not good at the cooking bit, either).
Mostly I cut up the veg, measure out the pasta or rice or quinoa, and am happy to see if the end result fills one plate or two. I’m happy to do a big roast or casserole or risotto on the weekend, with the promise of multiple serves, because it saves time over the next few days, and if it’s really good, I don’t mind eating it again and again; in fact, I look forward to it.
Oddly, last week I aimed at making enough to eat over two nights, but I ended up being bang-on the right amount for one perfect bowlful. I quickly noted down the quantities so I could get it right next time (one very small onion, one small tin of tuna, about a third of a cup of frozen peas, a handful of tatsoi leaves, about 60 gms frilly pasta. And lots of lemon juice and zest and parsley and garlic).
While I mostly cook pour moi seulement, I do have people visit; hence I have four of each bowl and plate (one only would be horridly sad). Mostly it’s my parents. But then I get thrown, and don’t know how to cook for the extra two people. I’d rather over-cook and have generous servings, or leftovers. But, unglamourously, most of our lunches together are toasted sandwiches because they’re quick to throw together during a working-bee-in-the-garden kind of day. And then it’s two sandwiches for dad and one each for me and mum.
On a different tangent, why is ‘cooking for one’ overlaid with such withering tones of pity? As if it is a fate no one would wish upon – I have to say it – oneself? Why do people declare that cooking for great gatherings of family and friends is an act of ‘cooking with love’ - yet to feed oneself only is not worth any effort or care beyond a scrappy piece of toast or a repeat of breakfast’s muesli?
Don’t get me wrong, as the single occupant of my dwelling, I’ve had toast or porridge or a slice of cake or a bowl of ice cream for dinner. But that’s because I want to, because I choose to, because I can. I have no one to please or feed but myself, so occasionally that means a mug of green tea and Connoisseur Café Grande ice cream straight from the tub. But mostly, to steal from pop culture, ‘I’m worth it’. So I cook something colourful, delicious, and horrifically healthy; I use my good china and nice glasses; I use my pretty napkins and resist sitting on the couch in front of the TV, meal balanced on a tray, even if the tray is a funky new Ikea number. I cook for one, I end up with leftovers, and I enjoy every mouthful of it.