A quote on a friend’s Instagram account caught my eye last week. It raised a wry smile, so I liked it and shared it with my Facebook friends. You might have seen it doing the rounds… it reads: “Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life until you die.”
I didn’t post it without comment – that would never do. I posted it alongside a confession; for my solo ‘dinner’ the previous night I had eaten Weetabix and two packets of salt and vinegar crisps.
For all my pretensions of being a foodie, when it comes to cooking for one (which is most of the working week) I just can’t be bothered. Had there been a banana in the fruit bowl I might have had that too – but sometimes even peeling a banana can be too much effort. What I really needed last Thursday was food for fuel. Which is an entirely different thing from food for pleasure.
Cooking for others is a way of showing I love them
Give me a crowd to feed (and to show off to) and I will chop, stir, sauté, bake, fry, roast, baste and marinade my way to producing a table that is groaning with (forgive my lack of modesty) delicious dishes. ‘Never knowingly under-catered’ will be my epitaph. What’s more, I will relish every minute of the planning and preparation, almost as much as I love sharing my table with friends and family. Cooking for others is my way of showing them how much they mean to me. With the promise of company, every knife, chopping board and pan in the kitchen will be used. But when it’s just me? Well, that’s an entirely different matter. Delia lied in the 80s when she said, ‘One is Fun!’.
Ok, so I’m doing myself down a bit. Weetabix-and-crisps-gate was unusual, and already that day I’d not done too badly, with poached eggs on toast for breakfast and chicken and rice soup (from the freezer) for lunch. It’s just that with a work deadline, a car to pick up from the garage and a choir practice to fit in to my evening, there was little time for food. As my mum would say, my Weetabix and crisp combo ‘filled a hole’.
I can’t bring myself to plan meals a week ahead
But for all its whimsy, that quote I shared is immensely relatable. While those of us with busy lives might list cooking as a chore, the objection is rarely to the actual cooking, but instead to the head-space that has to be given over to thinking about what to have, then checking the cupboards, making the list and shopping for the ingredients. My sister makes a weekly timetable of what’s for tea in her house. I can’t bring myself to plan that far ahead.
When the family were all at home mealtimes were quite complicated, with both vegetarian and gluten free diets to cater for. We tended to get stuck in a cycle of the same ten or twelve recipes, in spite of me owning a stack or recipe books taller than my height and having the entirety of the internet at my disposal. As with Netflix, was it too much choice that was the sticking block?
Siege? I could last 122 days without opening a tin
Now that it’s just me, it all comes down to disinterest. I’m completely unexcited about cooking for one. I’ve tried to get around this by batch-cooking at weekends; in my freezer right now, there is an abundance of little containers of delicious and nutritious portions of beef in horseradish sauce, butter chicken, sausage and red wine casserole, and spinach and sweet-potato daal. There are three different flavour of home-made soup too, and even frozen puddings, traybakes, fruit loaves and gingerbreads. In the event of a siege, I could last an estimated 122 days without even having to open a can of chickpeas. Wine stocks are pretty healthy too.
But can I be bothered taking those pre-packed meals out of the freezer? There’s the rub. Eating alone is no fun. So, is there an answer to this pathetic apathy?
I know. This is an extreme first world problem. I have never known hunger, and I’m not really alone – Mr Marr is still very much in my life, even if we’re not often in the same city. Are we solo folk all secretly on the cereal? Or is it ready-meals to the rescue? Unless I find some joy in cooking for one, I’m going to run out of Weetabix.