Summer

What to Cook For Yourself Now

June 24, 2015

Today: Kick your roommates, your life partners, and your pets out of the house! It's time to take over the kitchen and cook something for yourself.

Here is a list of things I do to celebrate myself, in order from least to most effective: 

10. Reread something I wrote senior year of high school, which always ends in embarrassment.
9. Think about getting my nails done but decide not to because gnawing guilt.
8. Reread Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" outloud, on the subway.
7. Think about buying a green juice but decide not to because $10.
6. Take a nap—even if it's 10 A.M; even if it's 6 P.M.
5. Go for a solo walk in the park. 
4. Stretch theatrically, accompanied by loud sighs. And crack my knuckles while I'm at it.
3. Listen to Taylor Swift's latest album from start to finish (skipping the voice memos).
2. Change into the high-waisted sweatpants I bought in eighth grade.
1. Cook myself a real, proper, grown-up dinner. 

On the rare evenings when I have the apartment to myself—when the only sounds are my cat chirping and some country music bleating and fewer horns honking than typical on the street below—nothing makes me feel more responsible than making myself dinner. Managing, somehow, to put crispy asparagus, a couple soft-boiled eggs, and salad—Oh, salad! Is there any food more adult than salad?—on a plate undoes all of the stupid mistakes I made that day (mispronouncing "borage"; forgetting where I dropped off my sweater for dry-cleaning three months ago; mispronouncing "tagliatelle"; accidentally hitting "Reply All"; mispronouncing "dulce de leche").

If you find yourself alone in the kitchen (with an eggplant or not) and cooking will make you feel good, here's what you should make, organized by circumstance:

When you went to the market and bought everything green you could possibly carry:

Roasted Asparagus with Chopped Egg and Torn Bread

 

Spring Vegetable Panzanella

 

Sautéed Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Capers

 

When you want to eat something on toast:

Roasted Tomatoes and Onions on Toast

 

Olive Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

 

When you're wearing your pajamas at 6 P.M.:

Braised Onion Sauce

 

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

 

Southern Grits

 

When your neighbors might stop by (but you hope they don't):

Pimm's Cup

 

Gnocchi Verde

 

When dinner is going to be dessert instead:

Honey-Lime Strawberries & Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet

 

Plum Galette with Whole-Wheat Crust

 

Roasted Strawberry Milkshake with Buttermilk and Mint

 

When you stayed at happy hour longer than you were expecting:

Scrambled Egg Tacos with Avocado

What's your favorite meal to cook for yourself? Share with us in the comments below!

10 Comments

LauriL June 27, 2015
Wonderful writing and thanks for the insightful Kathleen Alcott piece. Next time I get the urge (frequently, haha) to kick out the rest of the household I will certainly ponder....what to cook now....for myself.
 
Nancy B. June 26, 2015
A toasted slice of sourdough bread, a mashed perfectly ripe avocado and a poached egg with a whisper of srirachi.
 
Stephanie J. June 26, 2015
My favorite alone meal is leftover noodles, sautéed in butter until half crispy and tossing in one egg and and some cheese, mixed together with salt and pepper. Comfort food in my book!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. June 25, 2015
Kathleen Alcott recently wrote this about Nigel Slater in the New Yorker, and I think it's brilliant: <br /><br />"Slater is the writer for those of us who have ended up in the kitchen because transforming chopped vegetables and seasoned meats into complex dishes makes us feel that we have acted capably for the sake of our own well-being, and for the well-being of those we love. The hours I spend bent over an evolving meal are, as I believe they are for Slater, a step in the direction of the person I want to be and the home I’d like to have, even if I am frequently not that person, even if I do not come from that type of home. We conceive who we are as we conceive the meal in front of us."
 
Kt4 August 27, 2015
LOVE this!
 
AntoniaJames June 24, 2015
This is wonderful. I have a feeling that when you're my age, and will have made over 10,000 dinners for yourself and/or your sweetie (yes, it's not hard to reach that number if you prepare dinner at home most nights throughout your adult life), and you go back to look at this (do, seriously print it and put it in a very safe place), you'll smile and not be the least bit embarrassed. ;o) P.S. I'm saving this, to consult for inspiration the next time I have one of my own (very rare) cooking-just-for-me evenings.
 
ChefJune June 24, 2015
Loved this piece, Sarah! <br />In the Summer this is my favorite solo meal: https://food52.com/recipes/2629-the-real-fillet-of-fish-sandwich
 
Moshee June 24, 2015
This is so well written. Thanks for making me smile!
 
Stephanie June 24, 2015
There is something magical about cooking just for yourself. No catering to anyone else's taste buds, no searching around for ways to bulk up random vegetables (fried rice, anyone?), and no one to impress (except yourself). Just a simple perfect meal.
 
AntoniaJames June 24, 2015
Stephanie, I consider myself lucky that cooking for myself and my sweetheart of 35 years is exactly as you describe your own cooking for yourself. <br />I believe I've just discovered a reasonable predictor of good matches. ;o)