Dining with One

I like cooking.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I like eating good food presented well. And it’s a great pleasure to eat delicious, beautiful food that I made myself.

Moreover, I think I’m worth it. I, Bad4, deserve to eat well. So I do.

A (single) friend once told me that she lives on canned tuna and raw vegetables because “It doesn’t pay to cook for one.”

I told her that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard.

She got angry and told me she felt condescended at.

I snarked back that she shouldn’t demand respect from me when she wasn’t giving it to herself. She was a friend I admired and respected and enjoyed spending time with, and I couldn’t believe that she thought she wasn’t worth taking care of except incidentally while caring for a man.

We glared at each other for a while. She didn’t talk to me for three days. Then she came back and said it had nothing to do with any man—she was just too lazy to cook and she liked her tuna, so there.

I said I respected that, because everyone has a right to be lazy if it makes them happy, but I still thought she deserved good food, so she could come over for supper whenever she wanted. We grudgingly made up.  She came over for supper.

I see no shame in cooking for one, arranging a plate for one, and relishing it… alone. If you want to share, well, that’s what Instagram is for, right?

Which is why I was pleased to find that there’s an entire book of famous chefs reminiscing about their favorite one-person meals. And offended that the subtitle has the word “confession” in it. Can we please erase the stigma of not spending every moment with another person?

In The Muppets song “Me Party” there’s a line I love:

There are days when all this girl can see
Is a world that’s made for two

And it’s true. Our society assumes  a party of two. Everyone makes fun of teenage girls who can’t go to the bathroom alone. But how many grown adults have the guts to dine out alone?

I thought I did, and there are times when I have. But frequently I’ve resorted to reading a book to avoid figuring out what to do with my eyes. You can’t just stare at your food. That seems like bad manners. But looking around at the other patrons seems a little creepy. Sometimes, takeout just seems like a better option.

Which is why I loved this article about preferring to dine alone that an MF sent me.  Well, she sent me this article first, but there was a link, so that makes two people who proudly dine alone, and if you add me, well, three’s a crowd, and a horde is a type of crowd, so there are hordes of people who enjoy dining alone, so there.


Thursday Link: Things Not to Say to a Single Woman

I enjoy it whenever someone reminds the world that being single and female is honestly not the worst thing that can happen, because it’s really not.

Of course you don’t have to say things to insinuate it. I was recently at a classmate’s wedding. You know, the one who officially makes me the 10-percent forever single. I met a truckload of long-lost classmates, all wearing black, all busy working in some sort of therapy (occupation, speech, physical, mental). Somehow a few of us wound up in conversation with an even older (married) woman in black who spoke about her single days, crammed in an attic with other singles, living on leftovers from their dates.

“We had such good food every night, and we didn’t appreciate it,” she sighed. “When you’re single you just don’t appreciate these things.”

I was immediately jealous that her dates were so generous with the food. Mine, although usually employed, rarely spring for dinner. (And I, with the unfeminine ability to devour an entire entree and then peek at the dessert menu, rarely have leftovers to bring home.)

“I appreciate it!” I protested. “Sometimes the food is the best part of the date!

I immediately felt an uncomfortable shift, and when I glanced at my classmates they were gaping, rather. Had I taken the conversation into awkward territory? Had I done the  equivalent of declaring that “I love chemo! You lose so much weight!”?

The conversation broke up after that, although I suppose it would have broken up faster if I’d just nodded and smiled: “Yes, singles don’t appreciate the goodness they have.” 

For the record: We do! At least, I do. I appreciate everything about being single – my parents would say too much. And when a fellow takes me out to eat, I definitely appreciate that too.

It’s always nice to hear someone make singlehood sound like the good old days. It sure beat when they make it sound like a terminal illness. Which brings me to the link: Things you really shouldn’t say to single women. (Link goes to Huffington Post.)


Pass This Fad Around

Many men are incapable of doing anything by half. Guys don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to take up biking to work for health and economy.” A guy doesn’t take up biking. He becomes a Biker. This means he buys a $3,000 bike, an indecent spandex suit, a high-tech hydration pack with a bracelet that monitors his blood and beeps if he’s getting dehydrated, special shoes that clip to his pedals (never understood the point of those), and a meter for his bike wheel so he knows how many miles he’s pedaled. And don’t forget the pre-vulcanized patch kit, mini-pump, and wrench set that fit into a little soft case under his gel-cushioned seat.

It doesn’t stop there. Anyone can bike to work. But a Biker bikes. Suddenly, he’s up early doing 50 miles before breakfast. He’s entering himself in bicycle centuries around the country. He brags that he once did 50 mph downhill, and that his bike only weighs 6 pounds. He subscribes to Cycling monthly where he learns to coordinate his breathing with his pedaling. And so on. 

So, sometimes it’s probably better if your man sits on the couch playing Call of Duty. It’s cheaper, and at least you get to see him.

But then again, sometimes you benefit if your man goes crazy. Which is why I’m reposting this NYTimes article about men and cooking. Guys, read this: Cooking is cool. I mean, how bad can it be if our men learn to putter around the kitchen?

Well, actually… In No Cheating No Dying, the author has a husband who obsessively works his way through some slab-sized haute cuisine cookbooks. Any day she is likely to catch him dismembering a whole, freshly killed pig on the counter, so as to get truly fresh mashed brains. Slavish devotion to progress through the cookbook subsumed any concern for keeping the wife happy. The author notes that one salad she really liked didn’t reappear for another four years. He’d already done it, so why waste time doing it again?

Still, for all that, I think we net benefit when a guy begins to take the kitchen seriously, so I’m encouraging it. Just, for God’s sake, guys, keep away from the molecular gastronomy.

Food Blogging for Dates

A while ago I made an abortive attempt at being a little bit techbloggy. Today, inspired by commenter overtimecook (and with straight-up idea plagiarism from Apple), I present a visual shidduch resume. And yes, I used resume, because the format is more job oriented than usual.

For the record, I totally want to post pictures of my food all the time. After all, if I put in the time and make something pretty, it seems a waste to stare at it for a couple of seconds and then dig in. At the very least, someone ought to make admiring noises at me, don’t you think? But alas, I haven’t got a food blog. Even more alas, I haven’t got a camera – all photos taken with my webcam while balancing a laptop at an awkward angle and trying to use the last angles of the sun through the window instead of flash. I know that if I had a high-resolution DSLR I could make quinoa look as scrumptious as it is.Until then, I’m stuck with food that looks better than I can show.

First up, spinach salad with heirloom tomatoes shipped all the way from my parents’ garden in NYC. I think spinach is my favorite vegetable – I like it every which way, except full-grown raw. Do I still have all your attention, gentlemen? If not, that’s fine. I don’t think I could live with a guy who wasn’t open-minded on the subject of spinach. It’s just too important to me.

Appetizer - spinach salad

Next up, as a side, we have the grilled carrots. Odd thing – I don’t much enjoy raw carrots in any form except shredded in a salad. But I like them every other way–grilled, fried, and especially juiced. Ah… cool fresh carrot juice. I’m thirsty just thinking about it. Okay, to give credit where it’s due, Relarela brought these. But I have made carrots that look very similar.

Now for the Salmon-Ginger fingers with the Soy-Lime dipping sauce. I think these would be better as an hors d’oeuvres, but all my guests guzzle them down as a main.

I always get a recipe request for this one, but the photo is awful. Still, presenting: lemon couscous. Inside: sliced and toasted almonds, zest from a lemon (naked lemon is then grilled and tossed in), capers, and sage. You know you want some.

And for dessert we have rhubarb pie (miniaturized for the single female with occasional guests). Finger lickin’ good.

And that concludes tonight’s dinner. Anyone still with me? If not, tomorrow is steak and sweet potato fries.

Just kidding!

Quote of the Week: Would You Go Out With Someone Who

Is it not the strangest question ever? “Would you go out with someone who wears a knitted kippa?” “Would you go out with a girl who wears denim skirts?” “Would you go out with a guy who doesn’t have a college degree?” “Would you go out with a girl studying to be a doctor?”

A gentleman was asked one of these types of questions. His reply? “That’s kind of like asking me if I’d eat baking powder. If there are other ingredients with it, then yes, I do.”

How’s that for clever? Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat baking powder. What’s yours?

Combine 5 teaspoons of it with the following ingredients:

2.5 c whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons honey

2 eggs

2 C milk

4 tablespoons oil

Mix wet and dry separately. Stir to moisten. Drip tablespoonfulls into a frying pan greased with hot oil. Fry.

I’m a Real Person!

“Hi, this is Avital. As you know, Brocha and Chaim had a baby (Dovid) two weeks ago. I’m organizing meals for them for the month. Can you do next Monday?”

I stared at the phone, affronted. I mean, I was just some random single girl who’d moved in a few months ago. Why was she calling me?

Then I shook my perspective and waited for it to resettle. I was an independent woman with an income who could cook and was a friend of the family. Why shouldn’t she call me?

“Sure, no problem. I’d love to! Put me down.”

I hung up grinning. I (not my mother) was going to be making dinner for a pair of new parents. How cool is that? I’m a real person!

Life on the Edge

Once upon a time I was all gussied up and waiting in the kitchen for my gentleman caller to arrive. Dinner was sitting on the table, doused in a delicious tomato-based sauce. Yum. Of course it would be suicidal to even touch it. Murphy’s Law dictates that if you are wearing nice clothing within five feet of moving tomato sauce, some of it will land on you. But boy did it look good…

I would be careful…

And it would be a small piece. Just a little bit…

I was very careful… Ooh, did that drip? No… small piece at a time… bite it in one shot…

I brought the sauce-drenched biteful to my mouth with perfect delicacy. Everyone who has ever tried to teach me table manners would have been proud.

But I wasn’t think about that. I was almost holding my breath from the suspense. Would it drip? Would I succeed?

“She has a forkful – she’s moving it closer – almost at her mouth folks – she jabs, she bites, she chews! Aaaaand we have a swallow! Ye-ah!” The crowd roars.

Bravo! I did it!  Take that, Murphy! It wasn’t even hard. Hey, let’s have another piece, why not.

The thrill – the danger – the adrenaline rush. This was life on the edge.  This was living!

Yeah, I know, I need to get out more.

But with that dangerous maneuver completed for the night, I was ready for more risks, more excitement. So I pushed my luck yet again.

I walked on subway grates in my heels.

I felt the heel sliding in – did it catch? No, it came up smoothly. I wonder if I can place the heel tip right on the grill itself? It takes a little concentration – wow, this is wobbly  but I think I got it – oops, slipped!

I think my date is saying something to me.

“Er, sorry, I missed that, can you repeat it?”

Yes, I felt truly alive that evening.

Which is why I’m in the market for more dating thrills and risky behavior. Any ideas?