Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eating alone

This Christmas, ALL the gifts were food or wine related, and I got quite a few books! One of them was a book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, a collection of essays edited by Jenni Ferrari-Alder. Its got the sub heading, "confessions of cooking for one and dining alone". My boyfriend gave it to me. I asked him what what this meant to mean? Why are you giving me a book about eating alone? What are you trying to say?! He just looked at me and said he thought Id like it. Well I started reading it and Im loving it. Still not finished yet, but really enjoying it.

Its reminded me of the pleasures of eating alone, and comforted me in that when I am alone, Im not alone. Its made me look back on the times I was alone and remember them fondly, its not a horrible thing to be alone. I say that now, living with my boyfriend. But at times I loved the fact that I would go home and not have to impress anyone, talk to anyone, dress in any way (or at all if I felt like it!), and I could eat what I wanted and watch what I wanted on the tele. Its a time to be totally selfish and figure out who you are and what you like.

Ive lived alone quite a few times, as well as living in share houses, at boarding school and now with my lovely bf. When I think of the idea of living alone, I think back to the time when I lived in a country town not far from Perth for my first teaching job. I had a 3x1 house to myself with a huge jungle of a backyard. The backyard stayed a complete jungle as well, it was too much for me to maintain on my own, and this particular area had tiger snakes so there was no way I was going to be running about in the knee length weeds and grass trying to clean it up. It was that way when I got to the house and so that was how I was going to leave it. I'd spend all day trying to get kids who hated science, to not burn place down and be at least a little bit responsible in the classroom. Sometimes I was dying to get home to my little cave, cook myself something nourishing and turn the tele on. 

One night friday night I was stoked with the fact that I had a couple of magazines, a bottle of wine, a pot of cassoulet bubbling on the stove and no work the next day. I ate a steaming bowlful with potatoes, drank the whole bottle of red wine on the couch, read foodie mags and Julia Child, then watched a documentary. It was one of the best casseroles Id ever made and I remember being stoked about having it all to myself. 

It was here that I discovered the joys of greek yoghurt with honey, cassoulet, and the wide range of uses for frozen fruit. Fresh fruit didnt always get eaten, and I could only shop once a week really. The local IGA was really expensive and the food wasn't that fresh... I used to drive about 45 minutes to the northern suburbs of Perth to a pretty great place called Drovers, which had a fruit and veg shop, a fishmonger and a butcher. The meat area was pretty big and you could get almost anything. The fruit and veg shop played awesome music, and I often saw the staff dancing when they put the fruit on the shelves, which I loved. They had little bowls where you could sample the fruits, they had 5 or 6 different kinds of apples. They were very seasonal, and I loved shopping there. I discovered persimmon, which I sliced up and covered it in greek yoghurt, honey, and chopped almonds, cranberries and white chocolate. It was a simple pleasure and when I first ate it I was all on my own in the house with no one to share my discovery with. 

I used to make all kinds of things for myself, and I mostly tried to be somewhat healthy. I always cooked too much. Ive never been good at cooking for one, and now, Im no good at cooking for two. I was never wasteful though, and always froze whatever I had leftover to take to school. A frozen iceblock of soup, casserole or pasta defrosting on the windowsill next to my desk (which was never defrosted by lunchtime). I often went into the staff room to eat and people would regularly look over at me with a "ooo what have you got there?". One day it was slow roasted lamb shanks with hummus, pomegranite and a pita bread, which got a mix of raised eyebrows due to being impressed but also some who were confused. Some days it was soup - when I bought pea and ham in, I was told by an older colleague who was a known smartarse that she was the pea and ham soup queen. That was fine by me, if I were to choose to be the queen of anything, it wouldn't be that. The food that I cooked for myself at night, came with me to school the next day and quite often generated some conversation around the table.

I wasnt going gourmet every night.  There were plenty of nights I couldnt be arsed. The local Gull did pizzas, I went the full trash and got half hawaiian, half meatlovers or bbq chicken. Their garlic bread was the frozen stuff in the foil bag. I didnt care, I didnt have to cook. I also discovered additive free vegetarian indian meals that came in a little foil bag that you heated in hot water and I had them with rice. Trashbag central. I'd never serve that to anyone else, but for just me, alone, it fed me.

I'd be interested to know what everyone else ate when they were alone. Some say toast and beans or frozen pizzas, others make steak and asparagus and present it nicely for themselves. Why do you prepare the meals you do for yourself? 

What about dining out? Will you dine alone? What do you do while you're there? Do you avoid looking like you're on you're own, or chat up the staff? How do you find the service when you're on your own?

Ill write another post soon on dining alone - thats a whole different kettle of fish and I have dined alone many times when I've been travelling!


  1. I lived on my own for about 5 yrs before house sharing and then moving in with my bf who is an awesome cook. I lived off toasted sambos or tuna and salad and then dined out most of the other times. Now when Im home alone thats the first thing on the menu I cant wait to have it I miss my bachelorette menu! Takes a lot of effort to cook a delicious meal for one and I give you kudos for that :)

  2. I totally forgot about toasted sandwiches! I used to live off them as well... dunked in soup in a big mug!

    I didnt always go to alot of trouble, sandwiches featured highly on my singles menu!!

  3. Great post Jac, nice to see the nostalgic side of living alone. When I was in college, I used to make a lot of salads, coming home late from Uni/yoga and needing something to revitalize my body. I was addicted to garlc&chili prawn salad. Toasties were a welcome treat at the weekend after a long sleep in and of course, a beef stew and a bottle of wine after work on a Friday night. Yumz! Really want to get that book, sounds great!

  4. CA I wish Id made alot of salads lol I was a carboholic when I was at uni! Lived on pasta and rice! I used to have pasta with tomatoes, tinned tuna, fetta and onions - all chopped and stirred into the hot pasta with ALOT of salt and pepper. I still love it! Also made loads of stirfries with rice! Still love them too lol