What do you cook for yourself—when no one's watching?

  • Posted by: Eric Kim
  • September 12, 2018


Eric K. November 13, 2018
Thank you so much, everyone. In case you're still interested, the conversation is ongoing here: https://food52.com/blog/23301-solo-dinners-table-for-one
Smaug November 12, 2018
What with people dying and getting married, I find myself cooking for myself most of the time these days. I love making pies, but the finest pie tends to lose its charm by the 4th day. I've used various small pie plates, and found most of them required fussy adaptations and used amounts of filling that tended to be impractical, and galettes tend to be too much crust for filling when done small. I was charmed to find a 6" pie plate from Anchor Hocking that behaves very much like a standard pyrex pie plate; crust made with 1/2c flour and 1/3 filling from a recipe for a 9" pie makes a perfect little 2 serving pie which bakes about the same as a larger pie- maybe a few minutes faster. So far I've made chocolate pecan and blackberry, but the possibilities are endless. The little pies can easily be flipped out onto your hand if you want to serve them outside of the dish. I paid about 8 bucks on Amazon, and they're available in sets a bit cheaper.
Eric K. November 13, 2018
I love small pie plates too; there's nothing uglier than a 9" pie tin (says the emotionally crippled single man). Similarly, I have a 7-inch springform pan that makes beautiful micro-cheesecakes, just for me.
mstv October 29, 2018
Avocado toast
Eric K. October 29, 2018
Katie's always been quite little, actually.

Smaug October 29, 2018
But were you gigantic before you started eating pizza for breakfast?
LizzieB September 18, 2018
Steak and lobster
Answer image
LizzieB September 18, 2018
Steak and lobster!
Pamela J. September 17, 2018
Crispy fried eggs fried in bacon grease, the bacon, and fluffy biscuits with butter and blackberry jam.
Vievelane September 17, 2018
Seared scallops (easy to pop a few out of the freezer) with extra super garlicky greens (whatever I have) and tons of lemon juice on both. The rest of my family would never so it’s a treat for me.
Hillary September 16, 2018
Oeufs an Meurette - poached eggs set on a crostini, covered red wine sauce with mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon. I sub out the crostini for french fries, because yum!
Mary T. September 16, 2018
Like many others, I cook for myself every day... the only one that sees me eat is the cat. But when I'm feeling particularly self-indulgent, I make a big pan of chicken livers sauteed with onions, apples, and (of course) bacon. YUM!!! (I also identify with anyone who can't cook liver for people 'cause they don't enjoy it. More for me!)
Toni September 16, 2018
Warm leftover spagetti & meat sauce sandwich folded into a single slice of fresh white bread with enough softened butter that it runs down my fingers as it melts. Lol. (((Sigh)))
Toni September 16, 2018
Warm leftover spagetti & meat sauce sandwich folded into a single slice of fresh white bread with softened butter. (((Sigh)))
Maggie September 16, 2018
Hmm . . . as others have pointed out, is this food I'd be ashamed to have other people see me eating? If so, not much of anything. My food choices are nobody's business but mine, and I refuse to feel guilty for eating something unless it causes me physical discomfort. But eating alone? That's a different story -- that means either food I don't want to share because sometimes I'm selfish, or food I don't have to share because I'm the only one who wants it.

If eating alone, it's all about the Mac and Cheese. From a box is fine if I have it, but if not, a couple of handfuls of small pasta simmered in a mixture of milk and broth until done, then a couple of slices of American cheese and maybe some cheddar melted in. Drizzle with Frank's and ranch dressing. Always ranch dressing. And it's mine, all mine!

If I'm feeling particularly in need of vegetables, creamed spinach. I'm the only one in my house that likes it. I had it for breakfast just now with toast and a scrambled egg.
Meghan K. September 16, 2018
A fried egg sandwich is my go-to—toasted sliced bread (I like something with lots of grains and seeds, like Dave's Killer Bread), slathered in an amount of butter that ought to be embarrassing, with fried eggs with the yolks still runny. Use the bread crusts to mop up spilled yolk. It's a mess to eat with your hands, which is why it's my "when no one's watching" meal, but I probably eat it weekly, minimum.
Carnold September 16, 2018
Banana and bacon with mascarpone on a grilled split bun. Drink juice to remove the guilt.
ARoman September 16, 2018
Brisket of Beef on fresh Italian sesame sliced bread open face drowning in brown gravy.... yum with a glass of Black Cherry Club Soda.
Linda September 16, 2018
Since I'm cooking for one every meal, I cook whatever suits me. Since I have Type 2 diabetes, I stick with healthy foods. I'm doing keto because it manages the disease without medication. So, I don't have a specific thing that I cook. Today will be tacos. I make the shell out of cheese. Yum!
Miss_Karen September 16, 2018
French leek tartlets. They remind me of when I was an exchange student in Paris a few lifetime's ago.
Nancy September 15, 2018
Eric -
To answer your additional question whether I think more people will include their odd choices in their special meals, no, not necessarily.
I think there are 2 special standards that come into play when one cooks & dines alone (even if one does it most of the time)… below the usual (one permits oneself “because no one is looking”) & above the usual (because one has the time, energy, setting).
I see 4 sets of Venn diagrams, co-existing at the same time, for reasons which may vary by person:
• your vision of odd solo dining behavior influencing & taking over special solo dining behavior is one (circles overlap, almost totally)
• special solo dining influencing & becoming the other (circles overlap, almost totally, but from other direction)
• 2 kinds of solo dining remain separate (circles completely separate)
• 2 kinds of solo dining influence each other but don’t merge (circles overlap somewhat)
To conclude, of many fine reflections on dining alone, 2 that keep resonating with me.
M F K Fisher…making foods she likes, eating slowly, savoring them.
Pres Kennedy quip when he entertained many accomplished artists at the WH that he fears such illustrious company has not assembled there since a night when Pres Jefferson dined alone.
louisez September 15, 2018
toasted plain bagel with cream cheese, peanut butter, and honey
Margaret L. September 15, 2018
Beef liver cooked mostly according to James Beard's recipe from the 1950s for "Beef Liver Bourguignonne" with the addition, thanks to a chicken liver recipe from Lidia Bastianich, of a tablespoon of plumped raisins. Eaten on white toast, open-faced, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Can't eat it when others are around -- too many liver haters :(
ktr September 15, 2018
I haven’t made myself chicken livers since I lived alone. My husband won’t eat them but I should just buy them and cook them for myself some night.
This summer I was home without the kids and husband for several days. I decided it was the perfect time to perfect cooking a burger in a pan (we normally always grill burgers but that means we don’t make them for 6-8 months out of the year. I made myself a burger with Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms every night for 4 nights and enjoyed each one.
Susan September 15, 2018
Which is most of the time! (Not counting the dog and cats.) Eggs - Scrambled with lots of vegetables, salsa or spicy plum sauce on top; this time of the year, tomato and pretty much anything at hand salads (cucs, avocado, tuna, salmon, hard-boiled egg, onion, all the above); a slice of bread with a piece of flavorful cheese melted on top; grain or lentil bowls, again, topped with whatever’s at hand.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
I love all these answers so much! There's something unutterably genuine about what we choose to feed ourselves when there are "no cameras," so to speak. Makes me wonder if we should always be eating as if no one were looking. Anyway, reading these made me feel less alone this week. Thank you, everyone.
Alyssa September 15, 2018
I love a thick slice of homemade sourdough, toasted, slathered in miso with smashed avocado and curry powder on top. Another go-to is a big stirfry of leftover veggies with a quick sauce of soy sauce, pureed kimchi, and miso. And, when nobody's looking, I'll sometimes have half a roasted red kuri or kabocha squash, dressed with S&P and olive oil, and call it a meal.
Ttrockwood September 15, 2018
I live alone so there my meals are often without witnesses.... and potentially interesting on any given night but not necessarily embarrassing.
One of my favorite odd dishes only my immediate family could appreciate is the iceburg wedge grandma would make- with a decent layer of good mayo on the cut sides and some chopped black olives on top.
And there’s the interesting broke college years meal of rice with soy sauce and whatever can of peanut wheat gluten with soy sauce (i shopped in chinatown for all my groceries to save money but learned to love a lot of new to me then ingredients that way too)
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Me too, Ttrockwood. Your grandma's wedge sounds like my jam. I love crunchy iceberg, mayo, and olives. Never had them together, though!
creamtea September 14, 2018
A wedge of iceberg with blue-cheese dressing made with plain yogurt or buttermilk, or alternatively with just olive oil and white-wine vinegar. A plate of spaghetti with jarred Paesana sauce. A warm pan of grape tomatoes with sliced shallots, sautéed in olive oil, with an egg cracked in the middle. Toasted half-slice of sourdough topped with my "Moroccan Guacamole" (avocado mashed with a bit of minced cured Moroccan lemon). Any kind of green or chopped salad.
nance September 14, 2018
Big fat Fordhook lima beans with a ton of butter, salt, and fresh ground black pepper.
Lynn D. September 17, 2018
I love lima beans (I can only get them frozen), such an underrated vegetable. I like to mash them in a food processor with olive oil, basil and garlic and a little bean broth
Kevin W. September 14, 2018
Hahaa Mac and cheese in a box with those gooey sauce packets.
Gadge T. September 14, 2018
When people are looking, one thing I like is cream cheese on bread with grape nuts on top. It has a nice crunch, is simple, and people won't expect me to cook for them chicken courdon bleu, crepe suzette, garlic scallops in Alfredo sauce over a home made linguini, etc. It keeps my life simple when people don't know I've been creating special dishes for 30 years.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Our recipe developer Emma LOVES Grape Nuts.
T L. September 16, 2018
My brother's and my favorite breakfast sixty years ago was Grape Nuts with milk and a couple tablespoons of unprepared Jello powder--overwhelming artificial fruit flavor, garish color and too much sugar.
BakerBren September 13, 2018
I make packaged ramen (Top Ramen brand Soy Sauce flavor) and turn it into what I call "faux pho" by adding more broth and spiking it with fresh ginger and thinly sliced mushrooms, celery, carrots, scallions, red pepper flakes, and a little sesame oil. Also, I eat loaves of bread--whole loaves in one happy sitting. Crusty, crackling, warm artisan hearth loaves fresh from my oven. In baking school, I ate entire baguettes for dinner followed by an apple for good luck.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Love this idea.
stefanie September 13, 2018
Rice with half a package of silken tofu and half an avocado, both sliced then topped with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Ridiculously fast, easy, and super filling!
Stephanie B. September 13, 2018
It diverges one of two ways for me.

1) Most frequently, I cobble together something from leftovers ingredients and scraps: chorizo, kimchi, and green been fried rice being the most recent thing. Made from, you guessed it, a lone chorizo link, old rice, and a handful of green beans that I found lingering in my fridge. I bake a lot of bread, so dressed up grilled cheese sandwiches are easy to pair with a salad and call a meal for one. I like brie and pesto, cheddar and apple slices, and gruyere and pears or blackberry. Cacio e pepe and aglio e olio are favorites of mine for quick solo dinners too.

2) Very rarely, if I know I'm going to be on my own and I have the time to plan it, I will make myself a nice dinner and have a night in. Sometimes it's nice to treat yourself.
Nancy September 14, 2018
Stephanie B - your answer nicely taps into the ambiguous nature of Eric's question. Is this an odd or shameful food you wouldn't eat in front of others? Is this an indulgence for a quiet dinner alone?
My oddities, aside from using up odds and ends in fridge, often have simple ketchup as a sauce or sandwich prep.
My indulgent meals are often beautifully cooked single vegetables in each course, with wine or spritzer on the side.
Stephanie B. September 14, 2018
Lol, yes a nice bottle of wine also features into my indulgent dinner nights in too.

What was a memorable indulgent dinner you made yourself, Nancy?
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Oh yes, wine is a must for solo dining.

I love kimchi fried rice too, obviously. And ketchup. Actually, egg fried rice with ketchup is very good. Reminds me of cafeteria food.

Nancy, it's a great question. I'd like to think our "odd, shameful foods" are also our greatest indulgences for "quiet dinners alone," and that eventually they'd stop being shameful (if ever they were). What do you think?
Nancy September 15, 2018
Stephanie - A meal I savor alone - appetizer of beautifully prepared artichokes or tomatoes, then a piece of grilled fish (halibut or trout, e.g.), finished in brown butter. With Barolo or white zinfandel on the side.
Stephanie B. September 16, 2018
You can't do much better than that for an elegant meal! That sounds delicious.
Pegeen September 13, 2018
A pound or more of sauteed mushrooms with worcestershire, maybe add broccoli or another veg. I don't even bother to put it over pasta - just tuck in with a bowl and a spoon in front of the latest episode of Great British Baking Show. Also an abbreviated Ploughman's Lunch is a favorite - good bread, cheddar, sliced apple, and Branston Pickle which has to be forcibly pried out of my hands or I will eat the whole jar in one sitting. A bowl of soup with that is a very nice thing indeed.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Your mushroom ragu "bowl food" situation sounds so yummy. I'd eat that over toast. Do you sauté them in butter or oil?
Pegeen September 15, 2018
Eric, there was no way to respond directly to your post. (The interface doesn't allow indefinite levels of responses to posts.) I let the mushrooms get started on their own, sweating them in a non-stick pan. When they have given off a good amount of liquid I drain it from the skillet, and then add the butter or a neutral oil, or a little of both, to bring them to their tasty conclusion. Lots of S&P. If I'm adding a veg like broccoli, I usually steam or reheat that in the microwave to minimize time and trouble.
Megan September 13, 2018
tuna on pickles: I make a salty tuna salad with just a little mayo, minced onion and celery, tons of salt and pepper and a splash of pickle brine. Then I pile little mounds onto zesty bread and butter pickles. Maybe sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Then I pop 'em in my mouth and wish there were more! :)
HalfPint September 13, 2018
I make myself white rice and fermented bean curd (with chillies). I don't know that you could even call it "cooking".
Smaug September 13, 2018
I tend to eat a lot of tacos.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
How many can you eat in one sitting, Smaug?
Smaug September 16, 2018
As an aging endomorph, I'm inclined to emphasize quality over quantity; I usually keep it to six, but I may come back to them for lunch the next day.
Emma L. September 13, 2018
Rice with brown butter–scrambled eggs. Rice noodles with chili oil, soy sauce, black vinegar. Whole-wheat spaghetti with anchovies, olives, parsley. Egg in a hole!
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Eggs are the ultimate comfort food—*and* comfort cooking.
Tryumph September 13, 2018
Leftover pasta, fried in butter with bread crumbs and ketchup.
Eric K. September 13, 2018
I love packaged ramen noodles, especially the "Shin" brand, with an egg cracked into the fiery broth...
Stephanie B. September 13, 2018
That brand of instant noodles are a total guilty pleasure solo meal for me - I just put in a veggie and tell myself that makes up for all the sodium I'm eating in one sitting lol.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
SO much sodium! If you look on the back of the package it says: "Servings Per Container: About 2." Psh—as if. ;)
Nancy September 16, 2018
Serendipity, hardlikearmour recommended a few days ago in a thread on make-ahead lunches these homemade ramen noodles from the redoubtable J. Kenzi Lopez.
Who's to say you can't eat them alone for dinner?
BerryBaby September 13, 2018
Crunchy peanut butter, mayo, grape jelly, iceberg lettuce, on gummy, fresh, white bread. 😋
Eric K. September 13, 2018
!! The iceberg lettuce was a surprise. Very interesting.
BerryBaby September 13, 2018
It gives the sandwich a nice, refreshing crunch!
Toni September 16, 2018
Me too! (Minus the grape jelly). My friends think I'm weird. Lol.
BerryBaby September 16, 2018
They don't know what they are missing! It's good!😋
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