tl/dr; Cooking for yourself rules and makes you a better cook overall.
I might as well get out of the way what will become painfully obvious to all those who read this blog:
I have no formal training in the kitchen. And I’m sure that I’ve developed many habits in the kitchen that would make a trained chef cringe and shun me from their sight.
But don’t discount me yet. I have no formal training, but I can safely say I have years of cooking experience. Through much trial and error I have slogged through countless recipes from others and of my own making. In the last 15 years (give or take) I’ve fallen in with various food trends, and changed my diet radically from one year to the next. And through all of the smoke stained tears, burnt fingertips, fat-free diet attempts and yearly Christmas-gift cookbooks, I can at least safely say this: I know how to eat (thanks Nigella!) And I know how to get what I want to eat from the bowl, pan or pot into my mouth. (Have you ever heard cooking so elegantly described?)
It feels like a long road from making my first pancakes with my mother to feeling confident enough to want to publicly share what I love to eat and cook. (Especially since I’m terrified). But at some point you’ve got to say – fuck it – and move forward. For me that moment ~ finally ~ came after a conversation with two of my closest friends. Both had the desire to learn to cook more, but didn’t always feel confident trying out new recipes, especially when cooking for others. Further to their stress was the overwhelming availability of recipes – food blogs, TV shows, mini videos, gifs etc (could go on forever).
Where the hell do you start?
What should have been obvious to me after many failed attempts to find my own starting point with food writing – cooking family classics or getting your boyfriend to eat vegetables [oh the shame, I swear I was much younger then] – it all came together: cooking for one. For number one. A Table for One.
There really is no better way to experiment in the kitchen, and ultimately, no better way to eat.
YOU pick the menu.
YOU get the delicious rewards.
And perhaps the most comforting, you decide what happens to your failures.
(Like cover the shame with hot sauce and eat it anyways, or feed it to the dog or cat or the pig if you live somewhere cooler than me.)
Those failures are precisely the thing that will make you more confident in the kitchen, more aware of what you need to do differently next time and less afraid to make future mistakes. And guess what? With your new confidence, those mistakes get to be called “experiments” and, eventually, “recipes”.
And soon you’ll find yourself throwing massive, sprawling dinner parties, complete with roast chickens, homemade mead and Medieval lute music (note to self – do this.) Or you’ll be greedy and keep it all for yourself. It is after all your table.
Finally, and perhaps the greatest benefit of cooking solo, you get to spend some time with yourself, getting creative and weird. Even when I was too scared to be alone in any other aspects of my life, the kitchen was my happy, solitary place. Time spent in the kitchen has saved my sanity more times than I can count, and I hope to pass that on to you.
This isn’t about being single.
This isn’t about dying alone.
Or maybe it is, if that’s your thing. The point is, everyone finds themselves at a table for one at some point.
So rather than lament the solitude, or believe that you need a date to feel special, start treating yourself to the best. Test your limits without anyone to judge you and discover the pleasure of cooking and dining alone.
I hope soon you’ll be setting your own Table for One.