Friday, August 21, 2009

Eating Solo: A Confession

My husband--a physician--is on call at least one night a week, which means, of course, that I might not see him until the next morning, when I roll over and realize that sometime during the night, he crept in between the covers. It also means that at least one night a week, I usually eat alone.

Last night was one of those nights. Hubs called around 7pm and alerted me that he was waist deep in work--he's thoughtful that way. I said I'd leave his dinner in the fridge. After hanging up, I lovingly made him a sandwich wrap with hummus, turkey, fontina, bibb lettuce and thin slices of red bell pepper. I cut it in half, put it on a plate with some juicy red grapes, covered it in plastic wrap, and placed it neatly in the refrigerator.

And then I ate a slightly over-ripe tomato, a tennis ball-sized scoop of cottage cheese (salted and peppered to death) and a glass of wine. And called it dinner.

This made me think of a book I just finished, called What We Eat When We Eat Alone, by Deborah Madison.

In Madison's book, which I found delightful, she learned a lot about the down and dirty stuff we eat when we eat alone. She also, interestingly enough, learned that men and women eat very different things when alone. Women, in particular, are loathe to cook for themselves. They eat leftovers, or cereal, or cookie dough. Although there are many reasons for this (hello? a night OFF from making dinner!) the reason that made me stop in my tracks was: Some women don't bother cooking for themselves because deep down, they don't really feel that they're worth the effort.

Bingo. But ICK! I don't like that reason at all, and yet that's my reflection looking right back at ya.

I'll painstakingly make my husband a yummy and healthy dinner, stow it away for him to eat when he gets home, and then eat dreck. And part of it's because it's no fun to cook for one, and part of it's because I am a lazy slob, and part of it's because I'm too cheap to throw away the stupid tomato that's thisclose to growing fuzz on it.

But part of it, if I'm honest, is because I figure: eh, it's just me, no need to bother.

If you need any further urging to read the book, consider the following passage:

People told us, though not nearly as often as we would have expected, that when left alone in their own kitchens, they resorted to eating cereal for dinner. A little cloud of shame seems to hover around the cereal eaters, as if they know they really could do better and perhaps should try...

Great stuff, right? And it's hysterical (and sometimes gag-inducing) to read what human beings feast on when nobody's there to scoff.

So without further ado, I will confess to my most popular go-to dinners when there are no witnesses. Well, our cat, Harryboy knows, but he's not talking.

-a bowl of steaming basmati rice, topped with chopped tomato and slivers of red onion, topped with shards of very strong bleu cheese, salted and peppered. Sometimes with a drizzle of balsamic.

-bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado (the microwave thick-cut bacon, so don't go getting all impressed that I fried up fresh bacon) on a toasted english muffin

-any leftover about to go bad in the next day

-pimiento-jalapeno cheese from Whole Foods on toasted english muffin, topped with a tomato

-my comfort food: a big bowl of Uncle Ben's converted rice, buttered and salted to death

All kinda nasty and a little sad, but mine all the same. And now, brave readers, please share your own, if you dare. What do you eat--or have eaten in the past--when nobody was there to bear witness? I promise to laugh only a little.

*** Giveaway alert!*** If you post a comment/confession below, you will be eligible to win a 1-year subscrption to Everyday Food Magazine, courtesy of TKW! I really like this magazine because the recipes are simple, fresh and delicious. And maybe, just maybe, you might not be stuck eating cereal for dinner again!


  1. I haven't been by myself for dinner in ages. The last time I was, I was breastfeeding a NEEDED sustanance. But I often forget to make lunch for myself as I make the boys' lunches, check the blog, put the boys to bed, write a blog post.

  2. Geez, TKW! I would love to have some of your "non-dinners" for dinner! My go-to? Cheese and crackers. As in sliced swiss and triscuits. That's it. Oh, and a diet decaf diet Coke. Pathetic.

  3. If it is more than one night in a row, I'll try to cook something for myself. However with only one night I will turn to:
    Chips and Salsa - Who needs anything else?
    Annie's White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - I love this stuff and will doctor it up with a few chopped green onions and a grating of fresh Parmesean.
    Umm...and that is about it. Wow. I guess it is either chips and salsa or mac & cheese or if I'm really hungry both!

  4. What a great post! Actually, I was thinking your bowl of basmati rice with those lovely fixings sounded quite good.

    I've got a book recommendation too - I think you'll enjoy it if you haven't read it yet. It's called Alone in the Kitchen With An Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone. It's a collection of essays by different writers, and it's really wonderful!

  5. Sweet lord, I wish I would eat as well as you do alone. Last week it was two handfuls of pretzels, 3 Andes Candies and 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio!!

  6. The basmati with tomato and cheese sounds heavenly. I can top it, though. Basmati with rice vinegar. That's it. Love rice and vinegar. i think that's like negative one food group.
    I haven't cooked/prepared for just myself in three and a half years. I can tell you right now it would be either frozen yogurt or cheese. Crackers? Hell no. Just cheese. Leftovers, maybe, if they can be eaten cold. I take a lot of pride in cold food when eating alone. Like defiantly proving I don't have to heat it to eat it.
    HTalk about the white trash motherload, this is like the California trash motherload: half a dozen hard boiled egg whites, diced, in hummus, spread on an open-face broiled cheddar on sourdough. That's heaven.

  7. James is out tonight so it's just me and the boys. I just ate my 'dinner' and popped in here to see what's new. Weird that your latest post is about the odd stuff we eat when we're alone when I just happen to be alone and I just ate some pretty odd stuff LOL.
    When I was a kid I used to love sliced mushrooms in butter sauce on toast. Sounds alright, doesn't it? Here's the comes in a can. Eeeekk! I was rummaging around in the pantry looking for something to eat when I spied just such a can. Now, I haven't eaten this gloop for at least 20 years and I have no recollection of buying this particular can so who knows how long it's been there? Who cares, I had to see if it was as good as I remembered wasn't. Not even close. In fact, it was pretty vile so I decided to get rid of the taste in my mouth with something that I think only Aussies will understand. A crust of white bread slathered with hard butter and delicious, black, salty Vegemite. Needless to say, I also have a cold glass of SSB in my hand ;-)

  8. My husband works late a lot so I eat alone but usually fix something he can come home and eat later. If he's out of town I would usually eat leftovers like chicken, ribs, steak, quinoa or pasta salad and eat it cold, usually skip the green salad. Sometimes if I prepare something it would be grilled cheese with tomato and thinly sliced onion. Or I'll make tacos (the white corn taco shells always come in such a large stack package so I always have them on hand) I like my taco shells with parmesan on them, so they taste good stuffed with anything. Or I'll have black beans or something spicy because he doesn't like either.

    I like the cheese and triscuits route too! With a glass of wine of course.

  9. I'm conflicted. Sometimes I'll eat stale crackers with practically rancid butter, and other times I'll make a beautiful omelet or some such thing. It's not the solo status that defines it for me as much as my mental state at the moment -- and, of course, what the frig happens to hold.

  10. The first two actually sound really yummy to me!

    My husband is on call 2 weeks a month. I usually just make a kid friendly meal and do a little nibbling on that or eat some leftovers.

  11. My husband, being the main chef at our place, is the Ina to my Jeffery--he'll literally leave me something to make with instructions on what temperature to cook a turkey burger or where other things are. Granted, I'm not nearly as stupid in the kitchen as Jeffery is--I just think it's cute.

    Otherwise, he knows I'll just make a bunch of aglio e olio.

  12. if i'm not cooking for myself, and i actually do that kinda often - but if i just feel like, the hell with it, i eat stuff like:

    - bread or crackers with any topping or dip that I can manufacture from the fridge or pantry, until there is nothing left, and then hide the evidence that i pigged out.

    - a sandwich of monstrous and very diet-unfriendly proportions, and then hide all the evidence

    - Frozen Bertolli meals. The whole bag. (I LOVE this stuff when I'm home alone. It's so decadent to go back for the second half of the pan.)

    - anything else that's frozen that takes ten minutes to make. Like spaghetti, canned sauce, and frozen meatballs. Or angel hair, refrigerated pesto, and frozen shrimp.

  13. This is such a fun topic to think about. I tend to eat strange stuff for lunch more often than dinner, because I'm the one who misses dinner at home more often. I HATE wasting food, so it's pretty likely my solo meals will involve pieced together leftovers or random almost bad produce... sometimes this turns into an amazing feast, and sometimes it turns into something I'd never admit to eating!

  14. Let's see...chocolate chip cookies, grilled cheese (no, that's a lie. I eat the cheese and bread but don't grill it because I'll be damned if I'm washing anything), french onion sun chips, just about anything out of a bag that doesn't require a clean-up later. And a glass of pink grapefruit juice.

    And you know what?

    I LOVE those nights.

  15. Ck, you always make me laugh.

  16. My guilty pleasure meal is pretzels with cream cheese. Or butter. Or vanilla ice cream.