Before I started Lonely Gourmet, my idea of cooking for one was pretty much popping whatever frozen meal I had on hand into the microwave or making scrambled egg sandwiches. It’s not that I didn’t know how to cook; I’d been the main (and sometimes only) cook in my household for years when there were lots of people around to cook for. I just thought cooking for myself was boring and too much trouble. After all, it just meant cooking the same recipes I had for multitudes, but just making less.
But that’s not all there is to it. Yes, when you’re cooking for one, there are fewer portions. But maybe this is the first time you haven’t had someone else cook for you. Maybe you’re alone for the first time; I know it has been for me. What I’ve found, though, is that thinking of it simply as “cooking less” is taking away a lot of the things that make it more enjoyable.
I’ve actually found a lot of freedom in cooking for one. I no longer have to worry about whether or not someone else will like what I’m making. There’s no one to say they don’t like onions or there wasn’t enough heat in the salsa. And I can experiment with new flavors I’d never tried before because my child had to have more “traditional” flavors and my other family members wanted meat and potatoes.
So how do you start? It took me a while to figure it out. I didn’t feel like planning menus like I did when I had a houseful. But what I did enjoy was going to the store the day I wanted to cook, seeing what’s on sale and figuring something out on the fly. Making up your menu at the store can add some adventure and help you see the possibilities available when cooking for yourself.
Here are some tips for cooking for one on the fly:
- What’s the centerpiece of your meal? You can build off anything you fancy, be it some veggies you got at the farmer’s market or leftover roast you brought home from a friend’s house.
- Try building your menu off a particular spice. Want to try cumin for the first time? Think Indian, think curry.
- Spend time one day a week figuring out one new thing you’d like to cook for yourself in the coming week. Be creative! You don’t always have to make the same things all the time. This is just for you.
- It doesn’t always have to be dinner. What about being creative for a weekend lunch or brunch? Try adding something new to your scrambled eggs, such as sun-dried tomatoes and cilantro.
- Remember that sometimes, sweet and savory go well together, but not always. It’s ok to try adding honey, molasses or fruit to meat. I love pouring grapefruit juice over ham after I’ve studded it with whole cloves.
- Taste, taste, taste. Make sure you’re tasting while you’re cooking. Tasting allows you to adjust your flavors as you go along. That way, too, you’re seasoning and flavoring according to your tastes, not someone else’s.
So now, you’re ready to start cooking for yourself. Once you start, you’ll be very surprised at how much you enjoy it. You can cook for yourself just enough to hate it or you can do it more and really love it. Think of it as a any other hobby you’re first starting. You’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way, but it doesn’t mean you stop doing it.