I’m starting a series entitled “Cooking from Scratch for One” and this will be the inaugural installment. You may be surprised but this series is being filed, primarily, under the ongoing subject of “Griefstricken”.
Widowhood is no fun, no news there, and I’ve blogged about how excruciatingly difficult it is to grieve. Even though I’ve been doing this widowhood thing now for over three years, grief doesn’t go away, it ebbs and flows and changes but it doesn’t leave. So the normal goals one has when attempting a task, such as gain some sort of “success” or “complete” the project cannot apply to the monumental task of grieving. This is hard to wrap one’s mind around. I want to complete each step (stage) of grief, get a gold star for each and at the end of the course get a certificate of completion.
(certificate made using Canva app.)
If only this were true.
One of the things that has been most difficult for me since September 2014 is finding my way back to the kitchen. My hubby remodeled my kitchen for me 10 years ago and it truly was my happy place where I spent all my time contentedly cooking and baking for our family, immediate and extended, and friends and neighbors. My husband loved that I loved our kitchen and now that he’s gone I want,
need to get back to the kitchen, my kitchen, as my place of solace. It’s hard to do since I need to “cook from scratch for one” to be able to gain back some of what I’ve lost emotionally kitchen-wise. In the last three years I’ve tried many things in my search for kitchen joy; I subscribed to a meal box from Marley Spoon, I cooked as of old like I did when David was alive for four or six people as if nothing had changed and endlessly stocked my freezer to overflowing, I had frequent guests so I’d have a reason to cook, etc. All nice solutions but with huge flaws, the largest of which was none of these alternatives soothed my emotional needs. I won’t go into it with this post too deeply but I will say that with those options, I ended up wasting so much food that I was ashamed of myself and stopped cooking completely and started eating out to escape from my kitchen instead of retreating to it. I am a champion eater-outer alone, I have always enjoyed it and I still do – I’m an only child and eating out alone comes naturally to me but it’s depressing when you’d rather be at home cooking for yourself and you are just going through the motions of eating and breathing, and doing nothing that brings you joy.
So. I’m eliminating the major roadblocks to my successful reentry into my own kitchen by having my goals be to …
- … cook from scratch,
- … cook often,
- … cook for just me,
- … not have waste.
A word about leftovers: leftovers are not a problem for me. I love them, in fact, there are some foods that are just better leftover and I embrace that fact. But leftovers are problematic if the goal is to cook for one from scratch often . . . I have not set myself a goal to have no leftovers but rather to not have waste which to my mind are completely different things. I realize they may not be that different really but, well, there it is.
This past weekend I decided to take a 24 hour break from all social media and spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon cooking from scratch for one, for me, and here are the results:
1. I made it to 20 hours away from all social media because I can’t count. Next time I do this mini vacation from technology thing, and I will do it again, it was marvelous, I’ll set an alarm for myself since I could have easily done all 24 hours.
2. I handmade a small batch of fresh herb pasta, halving a recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication entitled Cooking with Fresh Herbs, currently in its second printing, that I turned into two meals.
For my dinner that night, I opened a bottle of red wine that I purchased from a winery last year and sipped a glass while I cooked. I have officially stopped letting worrying about being able to finish the glass or the bottle of wine stop me from opening a bottle. Which is what’s been happening, so I haven’t had a glass when I’ve wanted one because I might not be able to drink it all. I no longer take this into consideration and intend to enjoy what I can from the bottles I open and, what I can’t drink, then try to cook with the remainder if I can but not fret about either if I can’t. So far not much has gone to waste although some has but it’s the only way I can enjoy a glass when I want one. I’ve tried those single serving bottles but they are, I’m sorry to say it, not delicious wines to me. I’d rather not have any. This is in keeping with my goal of not having waste if you can believe it. Crazy I know. There is an aspect of waste to having purchased a bottle of wine but never enjoying it by opening it and drinking what you can. It would be different if I had a wine cellar or was a collector but I don’t and I’m not. Moving on . . .
I wrapped four fat asparagus spears with prosciutto and roasted them in a hot oven and I cooked and dressed half of my freshly made Parsley Fettuccini, saving the other half for another dinner in the week, with an easy Alfredo sauce that is only two ingredients; a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter (1/4 of a stick for this meal, more if I’d cooked all the fresh pasta I made) and an equal sized (to the butter) piece of good Parmesan cheese. That’s it! It’s really that simple. I learned this from Martha Stewart’s now defunct Everyday Food magazine. Grate the cheese and beat the grated cheese into the butter. Put that blob of butter and cheese into your serving bowl and top with hot cooked noodles and a couple of splashes of the salty pasta cooking water and toss until the noodles are all saucy and serve.
I made a small salad to round out my meal but I didn’t need it, the asparagus was enough.
3. I realized recently while watching an old Jessie Stone movie on my iTunes that I could learn something from bad guy Gino Fish, played by William Sadler. Tom Selleck, who plays Police-chief Jesse Stone in the series of movies, (most of which are available on iTunes) goes often to Boston from fictional Paradise, Mass. where he lives and works and meets with bad guy Gino, who calls himself “just a boxing promoter”, to get underworld information from him for whatever case the chief is working on and almost every time the two meet it’s at Gino’s work where Mr. Fish has, in the middle of some boxing rings in a derelict waterfront warehouse somewhere, put down an oriental rug and a large table that is then set with fine china and silver and crystal for a meal for one, for him. The white table cloth only covers the end where Gino sits to eat. This struck me as a way for me to eat in my kitchen, by sitting at the center island chopping block on a stool, which sounded quite fun, instead of being off in a corner, sitting at my dining table feeling all alone. So . . .
(I took this photo of a Jessie Stone movie playing on my tv because I couldn’t find a photo to use of Gino’s inspired dining setup online. I hope CBS, Hallmark, iTunes, Tom Selleck, William Sadler, the NSA [joke] and anyone else this might offend [not a joke, I mean it] will forgive me if I wasn’t supposed to!)
I used a white tablecloth on the end of my central butcher block and was as thorough with my table setting for one as I would have been for a special guest; good china, crystal, fresh flowers, candles – the whole nine yards.
I put classical music on and after a leisurely day spent in my kitchen cooking, on my porch reading and napping and in my garden puttering, I sat down to a lovely meal I’d made from scratch for one and savored it uninterrupted by technology. Even the tv was off all day. I give myself extra points for taking a shower, getting cleaned up, if not quite dolled up, (although I did put on earrings) before eating. More importantly – I didn’t eat in my sweats or jammies.
This attempt at reclaiming what I love doing from its painful associations with what I’ve lost was a big success. I look forward to doing it again and again. It looks like I might just earn that fictitious grieving completion certificate someday.