Although I knew how to clean and season chicken since I was a little girl, and how to fry it since I was a teenager, I didn’t really know much about cooking until I was 21 years old, living on my own in a studio apartment. My mom lovingly bought all of my kitchen appliances, dishes, pots and pans.
I promptly spent the first few months of my new adult life rearranging furniture to maximize the space and attempting to cook. I made rookie mistakes, like forgetting to take chicken out of the freezer until I got home late at night and was starving, or leaving raw chicken in the fridge too long. I spent a lot of time and money on Chinese food.
But in the midst of my mistakes, I learned to produce good, solid, simple food + I learned how to have fun in the kitchen.
The only problem was, who would eat with me?
Growing up, my mom was always in the kitchen, and the family had dinner together in the evening. At college I lived for the moments when all of us–a random assortment of my friends–would gather in Wismer at 5 pm to eat dinner catch up on the day. At 21, I wasn’t prepared to eat alone, but I never really thought too much about it. I was so busy learning how to cook that I wouldn’t have wanted to foist my experimental dishes onto anyone. But now that I do know my way around a kitchen, I realize how lonely and tiresome it gets to cook for just one person.
Cooking is a labor of love. When I love someone and I cook for them, everything tastes better. I love the anticipation of seeing a loved one tuck into their plate of food that I made for him/her. One of my best friends, Rachel told me that’s why so many men stick around. Just last night, she said, “You cook for em, girl! Once you cook for a man, you can’t get rid of him!” I never cooked for a man to impress him or because I wanted him to stick around; I cooked because having someone over + treating them well is important to me. As I cook for others, I am fed emotionally.
When I’m feeling lonely or sad, I don’t cook for myself: I put on a slash of red lipstick and take myself out for either a burger or a glass of champagne. But when my bestie comes for a visit, I stay in the kitchen for hours. Today, Ya. talked while I made a dip for us to snack on and fresh mojitos for us to sip as we discussed men + books. I realized that, when I’m alone, I don’t cook because I don’t feel like it’s worth it. All that work, just for me! But when I’m cooking for family or friends, I do it happily.
How do I cook for one without getting depressed? I started to wonder. Today it was easy: I wanted to make an Avgolemono Soup, a simple Greek soup that I absolutely loved eating at diners in Buffalo. I talked over the recipe with Rachel late last night; she told me how to temper eggs. Today, with anticipation I went to the grocery store for the items I needed. Then i made it while Ya. and I discussed about the importance of a good dinner party. The soup came out perfectly (partially) because I was in a good mood. I loved chopping onions and talking to a close friend as I bustled around the kitchen. Perhaps I simply need someone present to keep me company. We were not meant, Alexander McCall Smith once wrote, to sit in kitchens and prepare meals by ourselves.
Ya. gave me the highest compliment: “you’ll be a great wife and mother, girl!”
I hope I will be. In the meantime–I’m having dinner for one.