Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cooking for Two


One of the odd things about my job is the conversations I am privy to as I visit each table with their flight of wines. Sometimes I hear funny things that make me laugh. Other times I hear something which resonates with me.  The other day there were three or four gentlemen tasting wine together and as I stepped up to pour for them, one said to the other, "Ever since the kids have gone off to college, she says she's not motivated to cook anymore. She heats up frozen meals in the evenings." 

Of course he said this with a sad, resigned air, which I kind of get, but on the other hand, if it's bothering you, dude, step up and grab the apron. Man can cook, after all.

But I do have a lot of sympathy for the wife in question. It's taken me a long time to get out of the habit for buying enough food to feed an army on its feet, which is what our family was for the longest time. It's almost a grieving process you go through, once there is no longer a full family to cook for. You spend years learning recipes that will keep kids full and will re-heat well, since kids are so busy you're often feeding in shifts. It's all about big casseroles and other one-dish meal wonders.

When they leave home, all that changes. Immediately.

So one of my greatest challenges has been re-learning how to cook -- for two adults, not five people of various sizes ranging in age from 10 - 40. Harder still was learning to BUY for two and not five. 

Ifyou're single, I would imagine it's even harder to get up the motivation to cook for yourself than it is for couples, when you could just graze out of the fridge instead. Not that there's anything wrong with grazing. But it still should probably not replace meals 100 percent of the time.

But I also saw a study recently that many older adults who live alone are eating more and more processed food (both frozen and take-out), because they don't want to cook for one, and that is creating health challenges in the form of high blood pressure from high sodium levels, and diabetes from high sugar levels.

So what's to be done about the home cooking conundrum for singles and couples?

I think we need a revolution in small-portion cooking. I think there ought to be cooking TV shows that feature small dishes and limited portions, cookbooks and online resources that offer the same. With the Boomer and even Gen X'ers aging out, this becomes even more important. 

You can add a homesteading angle to it as well. How do you grow for just one or two people? How much do you preserve, freeze and put by? Having just gone through this with a whole bunch of canned tomatoes I put up in 2013 and need to use NOW, I really could have used some tips on knowing how much to grow when my kids left home. In 2013 (the year after they left) I grew waaaaay too much, bought waaaaay too many groceries, and didn't eat enough of any of it. 

And  I have the expired food in the bottom of my trash can to prove it. That shouldn't be the learning process. 

It's all well and good to be able to feed the small army that a houseful of kids is, but if you're an army of two or even one, it's no less important. It's something I plan on spending some time exploring in life and here as well, in the hopes of finding a new way of cooking, growing and eating.

Because there's more to growing old than throwing a "Lean Cuisine" meal in the oven (or even an Amy's Organic Kitchen meal) and calling it healthy eating. 

It's not. But I'm convinced that there is a better way out there, and that it can not only be delicious, but also be easy and save money in the long rung. Not to mention stop you from filling your trash can or composter with expired foods.


  1. We really do hear a little bit of everything in the service industry, don't we? And I agree about that man. He can cook! I've not been in the parent role so I never learned to cook that way but can imagine how hard it would be to cook otherwise. But I do think all the time what a godsend (or okay, maybe I'm being dramatic, wonderful thing) the sous vide is for cooking for one. So easy to make many single-serve meals with hardly any prep.
    Are you getting excited for your sous vide turkey?! How long are you going to cook it? How will you season if?

    1. Yes! Very excited! Of course right now, the sous vide is cooking a chuck roast for me, which I'll serve on Monday, then Tuesday night I will start cooking the turkey to serve on Friday afternoon. I've found several videos online about how to do it, so I'll be following their lead. Seasoning will be with some salt/pepper/herbs de provence made into a paste with butter and spread generously around. I also finally bought a cleaver so I can cut the turkey up raw (this will be my greatest challenge as I've never done it). And I've decided to use an ice chest to cook everything in, as it's large enough. Or I may borrow one of those big plastic containers from the winery, which you see the pros using. It's SUCH a relief to not have to worry about all that prep on Thanksgiving Day (which for us will be Friday this year). I will keep you up-to-date on how it comes out! Any last minute tips?

    2. I'm quite sure you've got it covered! Dividing the turkey in parts is very easy. I don't have a cleaver, I just use my chef's knife (though my chef's knife is 12 inches, so it's kind of a cleaver I guess). I've also found kitchen shears to be very useful in taking out the backbone. And you'll love having the bones before the meal to make stock!
      My only tip would be to have your oven screaming got to brown the skin, maybe sprinkle with salt to help evap moisture and crisp skin quickly! Can't wait to hear how it goes!

    3. Thanks! I think we are actually going to finish off the bird on the bbq, since it'll be warm enough to cook on it. So the skin will definitely get crisp quickly! I knew I should have bought a new pair of kitchen shears though...maybe Monday. : )