What Do You Cook When Eating Solo? | Cup of Jo

What Do You Cook When Eating Solo? | Cup of Jo

meals for eating solo

I just read the biography of legendary cookbook editor, Judith Jones…

Jones was the editor of some of the biggest authors of the past century (Julia Child, Madhur Jaffrey, John Updike, Sylvia Plath), but as Jones got older, she wrote her own books — first a memoir, and then a cookbook called The Pleasures of Cooking for One, after her husband died. They had been married for 45 years and cooking together had played an enormous role in their love story. Here, the biographer, Sara Franklin, describes The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

[Jones] used luscious evocative language in her headnotes and recipes, an approach to food writing she’d long encouraged her authors to practice; you want the reader, Judith said, to be ‘just panting by the time you get to taste the recipe. You can’t stand it!’ She encouraged reader/cooks to loosen up in the kitchen; ‘This is apt to be a messy-looking pancake,’ she wrote for the headnote for Wild Rice Pancake, ‘But who cares? It’s just for you and it’s delicious.’ Above all, Pleasures was an articulation of an ethic that Judith had spent a lifetime building. ‘Cooking is a sensual experience, and you really should allow all your senses full play,’ she wrote in her introduction. ‘Enjoy the feel of the ingredients, observe what is happening, taste as you go along, and drink in the heady smells that arouse your anticipation…even if it’s just for you — or especially if it’s just for you.’”

I don’t need much convincing when it comes to “positioning pleasure” at the center of the dinner table, and this is especially true when I’m dining solo, something I do way more often these days as an empty nester. The great joy of my life is cooking for people, but this doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled when I have no other palates to consider.

It felt like vacation last July when I was on my own, carefully frying eggplant rounds in oil, then dusting with spices, so I could sit down to an expertly executed plate of Hetty McKinnon’s Salt & Pepper Eggplant, a recipe that I crave on a cellular level in a way my eggplant-neutral family does not.

There also was that night last November when I came home late from a long hospital visit having not eaten anything all day. My father was very ill — he would die a few weeks later — and my own needs had receded into the background until the moment I walked into my kitchen, ravenous. I made scrambled eggs and toast — with really good eggs and really good toast — setting a place for myself at the table with a lighted votive and a cold beer. The ultimate act of self-care.

easy solo meals

Do you do this? What meals do you cook just for you?

P.S. What food geniuses eat when they’re home alone.

(Photo by Stocky/J.Anthony.)

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