Have I ever talked about this before on the blog? I don’t know. Anyway, “Cooking for One” is the cooking show in my head. Probably I should be pitching it to the Food Network rather than blabbing about it on the internet, but whatever – I think it’s a sure bet that the Food Network would never pick up the show as I’ve conceived it. But more about that in a bit.
Anyway. As I’ve spent the morning cooking, I’ve been thinking a lot about “Cooking for One” – partly because I was cooking, but also partly because a friend of mine is in the midst of an awful breakup and she’d asked people on Facebook to talk about the great things about living alone. In response, the first thing I thought of that is great about living alone is not having to cook for another person. By that I don’t actually mean the chore of cooking, as if it’s 1952 and the lady of the house has dinner on the table at 6 o’clock on the dot. What I mean more is about having another person’s tastes, preferences, and dislikes shape one’s cooking.
When I lived with my ex, I was constantly limited in the kitchen by his ideas about food (what I’d call pickiness but what he’d probably call “preferences”). He wasn’t a person who was conventionally picky – he’d eat lots of different things, but only prepared in very particular ways. The representative example I can give you is that he would eat onions, but only if they were chopped so fine that they were basically minced. No dicing, no slicing, only tiny, tiny miniscule onions. So while on the one hand I think it was during that relationship that I probably became a good cook, I didn’t really enjoy cooking until that relationship was over.
So, really, I get the most joy from cooking when I’m only cooking for myself, and primarily when I’m cooking without any recipes. That is contrary to common narratives that are associated with food and cooking, which usually insist on the joys of cooking for other people – of the way that food brings people together, of the way that food allows us to show love, blah blah blah. Now, I’m not saying that food and cooking can’t do those things. They surely can. But they can also drive a wedge between otherwise reasonable people. Because everybody has their own particular food things.
BFF cannot abide the skin of a chicken.
High School Best Friend is anti-sandwich.
A. also is not a huge fan of the sandwich, but her loathing of pickles knows no bounds. She also despises condiments.
FB once described to me his perception of the texture of a raw tomato as the texture of an abortion. (Which, eeewwww.)
So yes, it’s true, on the one hand food is something that we all share, but as any little kid can tell you, sharing sometimes sucks. And sharing, when it comes to food, means that you have to take everybody who will eat the food’s tastes into account. Which, personally, I tend to resent. Because I feel like people should have to eat what I think is good or they should make their own damned food.
This is where “Cooking for One” is glorious: instead of me trying to bully people with my cooking, I can just cook freely and happily and creatively, without any stress. Since I’ll eat pretty much anything, I can play to my heart’s content. I’m not going to get mad at myself for making something I don’t like, nor will I demand myself to cook things that I don’t feel like eating. When you cook for yourself, there are no compromises and there is no pressure. It is, truly, better than cooking for other people in a lot of ways.
Now, this is why the food network would never air such a show, however. Because they are very invested in the belief that food is about bringing people together. And so, even those cooking shows that are not all about cooking for one’s husband/family are all about entertaining. The sense that you get is that if you’re not cooking for other people you don’t deserve to cook and eat lovely food. No, if you’re not cooking for other people, then you should just be eating lean cuisines or something. Also, the food network is very invested in presenting cooking as a social activity. They really like it when their stars bring kids into the kitchen with them, or have other cooking friends or family come by for a “cooking together” sort of thing. You know what I have to say to that? Get the hell out of my kitchen. I like cooking alone. In fact, I like cooking in complete silence. No radio, no tv, no conversation (I won’t even cook while talking on the phone) – no distractions. I have no interest in sharing the experience of cooking. Hell, I’ve been known to kick my cats out of the kitchen if they’re hanging around and they don’t even talk.
But so, clearly, “Cooking for One” would never be put on television, because it would be a show where the person would come on, would say what they’d be making and talk a little bit about it, and then cook in total silence with subtitles. Except for when it would be a “late night and drunk” episode, at which time the “Cooking for One” host would chef up something like cheese microwaved in a tortilla with some sriracha while cursing up a storm, and I’m not sure we’d call that a “recipe” or “teaching the audience something” so much as we’d call it “munchies.”
So I’ve got some soup simmering away on the stove, soup that I made with no recipe and who knows whether it will be as awesome as I imagine, but I suppose we shall see. I’ll say this, though: it smells really good, and between that and how quiet it is in my house and how the sunshine is streaming through my windows, everything is very cozy and wonderful on this autumn Saturday.
Edited to Add
I would just like to note for the record that my invented soup is delicious.
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