We get Letters – v. 5 : Eating for One or Two

This popped into my mailbox this morning, and I thought I’d address it here

Dear Kate,

I’m a daily reader of your blog and, obviously, it’s pretty damn awesome. Still, as lovely as your recipes sound and your pictures look, it’s more or less theoretical for me, and I was hoping you could give me advice. I grew up in an American family with a fairly bovine chaw
comprehension of food preparation – dinner usually involved poorly prepared meat and microwaved vegetables. Despite this, I somehow developed early in life a taste for good food, and when I was 18, I spent most of the next 5 years traveling through about thirty-five
counties, even settling down in Brussels for a time. All of this just increased my appreciation for food, but since I was travelling, I never really got a chance to prepare it.

Eventually, I moved to Dublin, where I’ve lived for the last couple of years. Irish food is largely revolting, so during this time, I’ve pined to learn how to cook. But I’m a bachelor, and I live alone. When I consider learning to cook, the issue primarily is just how wasteful it
seems to be: recipes are always geared towards 4-8 people, which means if I cook a dish, I’ll be eating it for the next week. I’ve considered dinner parties to give me an opportunity to cook for a lot of people, but this generally doesn’t work, since it is hard for me to get enough of my friends together on a single night. I ended up just being frustrated by the logistics of cooking – how can I learn to cook great food, while not spending assloads of money trying to cook for 8 people when I only need to feed 1.

Eventually, I just supressed the dream, but your blog has reawakened it. Do you have any words of advice for a potential 26 year old gourmand who wants to get started, yet will likely be cooking mostly for himself or, at most, two people at a time? I could really use some guidance on this.

Thanks for anything you can share!



Oh John, where to begin?

Congratulation on turning toward the side of good. First thing you should do is raise your right hand and repeat the following: “I solemnly swear to no longer purchase any food product from the frozen food section of my market…aside from ice cream and the occaisional frozen dairy treat. I make this pledge because I finally have to admit that frozen food is essentially crap”. Now, on to your question.

The issue you have here is two-fold: Too much food and not enough people. Let me address the latter before the former.

Cooking is a skill that will make you a more attractive domestic partner. People will tell you that a sense of humor or a sense of style is enough to attract romance. To them I say “feh”! Nothing is more sexy than the ability to survive on your own, and to demonstrate that talent to others. Think I’m wrong? Answer me this: Who is more attractive – A man who survives on fast food and frozen food, or a man who can can whip up a Braciola without fear or trepidation? The answer, of course, is the man who can cook the Braciola, for the mere reason of when you cook very well, someone else doesn’t have to. Never underestimate how sexy it is to appeal to someone else’s laziness.

So by learning to cook, you will solve the “too little people” problem. But that takes time. Until then, solve the “too much food” issue by taking your extras into work and sharing with co-workers. I would, however, limit this aspect to desserts and desserts only. As well meaning as you may be, you will only get odd stares if you bring in your latest cabbage soup.

So let’s address the first part…too much food. You must learn to cook, and you must learn to cook for one or two people at most. Fairly simple in theory, in practice it can get a bit dodgy. The recipes I’ve seen (and tried) for one or two people have been marginal at best, and complete wastes of time in other instances. So instead of learning (and relying on) recipes, let’s instead look at cooking practices.


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