Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

On eating alone

Much has been written about eating alone. In Cooking for Mr. Latte, Amanda Hesser describes a solo outing to Pearl's Oyster Bar, then a meal at home. Ms. Hesser likes egg dishes and salads, which may account for her oft-noted petite figure.

In "Alone in the Kitchen with An Eggplant," Laurie Colwin observes that "Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest...People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam." (27) Colwin goes on to describe her many solo variations on eggplant, none of which I would ever attempt.

Elizabeth David weighs in on solo eating--on Christmas, no less, writing:

"If I had my way--and I shan't--my Christmas day eating and drinking would consist of an omelette and cold ham and a nice bottle of wine at lunch time, and a smoked salmon sandwhich with a glass of champagne on a tray in bed in the evening." (167)

My rare solo eating ventures almost always involve mayonnaise, a substance Hockeyman abhors.

If I have eggs I deem fresh enough, I make the mayo myself. But usually I do not, so I use Hellman's, heavily adulterated with minced raw garlic and lots of fresh lemon juice. With this pseudo-aioli I serve myself an artichoke and some bread to mop up the last remnants of sauce.

Lately I find myself awash in beets, one of the few vegetables H-man flatly refuses to touch. In an artichoke variation, I might roast them, possibly with some garlic cloves and sliced onion, make my mayo, and chow down.

Other solo meals include polenta, a food H-man disliked until I made it a la Paula Wolfert, a recipe involving flour, cornmeal, butter, duck fat, and a lot of time. When he isn't around, I saute lots of onion and garlic in olive oil, then add cornmeal and chicken broth. I also like rice with onions, garlic, greens, and goat cheese.

Recently the topic of solo eating came up with a single friend. Yogurt for breakfast. A salad for lunch. Canned soup for dinner.

"I would starve on that," I said. "That's like, one meal for me."

She hastened to add the midday salad had pork tenderloin in it. Once a month, she roasts a large batch, slices it, and freezes the lot. "And I vary the salad vegetables," she added.

And the canned soup dinner? "I eat bread and butter with it."

As you might expect, she's slender, though not emaciated. I would be, if I ate like that. She claims to hate cooking, to not really know how to, to not want to bother. She mentioned a friend of hers who lives in an elderly building with an ancient stove, which gives off a constant gas smell. After numerous conversations with the landlord, she turned off the stove and bought a hot plate.

I have lived all my adult life with H-man (we were in our early twenties when we took up coupledom). Having never lived alone, I can't honestly say how I'd feed myself. I suspect I'd cook less elaborately. Eat more poultry and less red meat (H-man loves cow). But I know I'd cook for myself, however modestly. If one cannot find sufficient self-respect, there are always reasons of health. Though health may fall under self-respect?

Ultimately, there's something terribly sad about existing on salads and canned soups, though in fairness I may be projecting how I'd feel if I ate that way.

In terms of the woman with her hot plate, I'd move out. Period. Hot plates are for dorm rooms and the impoverished, who sadly have no choice.

Tonight H-man is going out with his buddies. I am deciding between the beets, greens and all, with my funky mayonnaise and a bowl of rice, or going out to dinner myself. I almost never do this, but there's a causal Italian place on College Avenue I love. The bookstore is a couple blocks down. Ravioli, a glass of merlot, a nice long look in Pendragon Books while the wine wears off.

Decisions, decisions.

Books cited:

Laurie Colwin: Home Cooking. New York: Harper Collins. 1988.

Elizabeth David: Is there a Nutmeg in the House? Viking Penguin Books International, 2002.

Amanda Hesser: Cooking for Mr. Latte. New York: W.W. Norton Books 2003.


Anonymous J.D. said...

When left to my own devices in lab, I often end up eating yogurt. As in, a lot of it--usually with grape nuts (and dried cranberries if I'm lucky). On really good days, I'll have a raw bell pepper or some frozen beans to round it out and make it a meal.

November 26, 2006 12:30 AM  
Blogger Barking Kitten said...

You don't get hungry?

November 26, 2006 7:43 PM  
Anonymous j.d. said...

It's not too bad; I should also note that I tend to be a grazer, so I often rustle up a couple of a la carte mini-meals after I get home.

November 29, 2006 6:10 PM  
Blogger Barking Kitten said...

Well that's a relief ...

November 29, 2006 9:09 PM  

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