I’ll admit that most of the times I end up cooking for just me, I eat weird food. Last time Nick was away, one night for dinner I ate a whole purple cauliflower, roasted with olive oil and garlic, and three eggs, scrambled medium-rare in probably more butter than was necessary with a lot of black pepper. Not something I’d make for a family dinner, it was a meal that I enjoyed intensely probably in part because I was all by myself.
Eating alone is a secret joy, the kind of thing I recommend everyone give a good solid try. It’s important to be able to enjoy one’s own company, and some people need a bit of practice dining in silence, alone but not lonely. Start with brunch; the most wonderful way to spend Sunday morning is sitting at a table alone in a well-lit dining room with cold white wine, a bit of fruit, a poached egg and some toast, and a stack of magazines you haven’t yet gotten around to. If you go a little while after the lunch rush, you can sit undisturbed for a good long time, and the serving staff will be kind to you and generous in topping up your glass. Tip well. But that goes without saying.
You can practice at home by cooking for yourself and then not eating that meal in front of a screen. Books and magazines are allowed, but iPhones, computers, and televisions are not. Even if you just roast yourself a whole bunch of cauliflower, you must do yourself a favour and eat it at a table, with nice music playing and something manual to distract yourself.
And while you’re practicing, read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, a collection of essays by brilliant people on the topic of dinner for one.
This book has a little bit of something from everyone, from Nora Ephron and Laurie Colwin to Haruki Murakami and Marcella Hazan. From her own piece called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, from her book Home Cooking and from which the book takes its name, Laurie Colwin writes:
Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. 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, the confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches and bacon sandwiches deep fried with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.
Be your weird self. Cook for just you. Enjoy the silence. Eat a whole head of cauliflower, if that’s what makes you happy.
- 1 x 2 lb. cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large bowl, drizzle the cauliflower florets with the olive oil. Zest the lemon over top the florets, then drizzle them with the juice. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and mush the whole thing together with your hands until the cauliflower is well coated.
Place the cauliflower on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Sprinkle with a little bit of additional salt, then eat with your fingers out of a big bowl with a plate of scrambled eggs, a glass of cold white wine, and a novel you’ve been meaning to get into. Don’t answer the phone if it rings – it’s me time.