Monday, April 19, 2010

Table for One

I love to cook. When I'm cooking for someone else, nothing is off-limits. I've whipped up tilapia. Cornish hens. Calamari. Homemade spaghetti sauce. Risotto. Stews. Steaks. Wings. Couscous. Every imaginable casserole known to mankind.

But now that I'm living alone for the first time in my life, my dinner selections include frozen vegetables, pasta (with JARRED sauce--sacrilege, I know), canned soup, and the occasional Boca burger. This is largely due to:
  1. Proportions. Any savvy shopper today will tell you family size portions are where the savings are at. Plus, almost every serving of protein is packaged for a family of four. I mean, I love stir-fry as much as anyone, but I don't want to be eating it for four days straight.
  2. Laziness. When I get home, it's easier just to pop a package of mixed frozen veggies in the microwave than get the creative culinary juices going.
  3. Satisfaction. Nothing puts a faster smile on a cook's face than to see someone go back for seconds.
  4. Freshness. I can never go through a container of strawberries or package of spinach before it goes bad. I even have trouble using up garlic. GARLIC. And I throw around garlic the way most people throw around salt.
  5. Time. Who has time to hunt out recipes if no one's going to enjoy them? Who has time to marinate chicken, to dice onions, to bake until bubbly? Who has the time anymore to dance to Ella Fitzgerald or Glenn Miller in the kitchen, to let the meat rest before cutting, to linger over a home-cooked meal with a glass heavy with wine?
Sure, I used to. Ella and I, we're old friends in the world of the kitchen. We used to spend many a night together, stirring sauces with the same wooden spoon my grandfather gave my mother when she moved out. But now deadlines call, phones buzz. Ella's been effectively pushed out of my life..

But look at the first thing I saw when I entered the grocery store yesterday:

Artichokes. On a bed of ice. In season. ON SALE.

Artichokes are my favorite vegetable. No one I've lived with has shared my artichoke obsession, so on the rare night alone I'd steam them with bay leaf and lemon and settle down with a giant bowl for the leaves. I'd put on a movie and spend the night laboring over my artichoke, peeling each leaf back slowly until I got to the big finale: that big, beautiful heart.

After those artichokes, I was a goner. I bought fresh meat for the first time in months. Last night, I kicked back with my giant bowl of artichoke, a thick pan-seared steak and a cold beer. I watched my DVR'd Evita.

And after that night of pure self-indulgence and Andrew Lloyd Webber, I swore I'd somehow make this cooking-for-one thing work. 

Now, to reconcile my new vow with my intense hatred of dishes...

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