Cooking For One: Man Vs. Food

Cooking for one is HARD. It’s astonishingly difficult. It’s as difficult as, say, juggling flaming chainsaws, or playing the banjo, or avoiding carbs. To clarify, cooking in general is not hard. I love to cook. I’m the male version of Julia Child (this of course, is not true. Guy Fieri is the male version of Julie Child). I just can’t cook for one. It’s impossible. I have yet to successfully cook for one person.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Issue #1: No motivation
If you’re cooking for yourself along with others (your SO, your kids, your freeloading best friend), you’re motivated to cook. So you do it. Whether you’re heating up salisbury steak for your kids on a school night (shout out to Karen, the greatest mother in the world!), making duck l’orange for a romantic evening with your Sig-O, or reheating some 4 day old mac-n-cheese for your mooching friend (because he doesn’t deserve anything better), it’s always easier to cook for others.

But when you’re all by yourself, there is hardly any motivation. Just think of all the pots and pans you have to wash after making a meal for just one person. And when you’re by yourself, you have to do the cooking and the cleaning. What’s up with that??? The world is not fair. And all that work for one lousy meal. But of course, it’s not going to be just one meal…

Issue #2: Cooking way too much
This is the bigger problem. I love to cook, so I’m often ok with all the cleaning I have to do. But I can’t figure out portions. Like at all. Sure, making a little extra so you have a lunch tomorrow is fine. But I’m talking about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner taken care of for the next week. “What’s for lunch tomorrow, Greg?” “Chicken and pasta!” “How about dinner?” “Chicken and pasta!” “And for breakfast the next day?” “Eggs! …and chicken and pasta!”. I don’t want to waste food (because I’m not Richie Rich), so I’m determined to eat everything I cook. And because my freezer is only so big, I have to eat all my leftovers right away. It’s distressing. A month ago, I made enough soup to feed an entire orphanage. Sorry kids, I ate it all myself. But it took a month.

Cooking too much pasta

I’m trying really hard to figure out portions. But I’m not good at the maths. A recipe says “serves 4” so I think, “ok, just divide everything by 4”. What the heck is 2/3 cup divided by 4??? I HAVE NO IDEA. And frankly, I don’t think anyone knows. Or I think, “I really love chicken and cheese enchiladas so I’ll make the entire batch.” WRONG. No one likes enchiladas when it’s your eighth day in a row eating them. And then you don’t want to eat them again for months and by then, you forget the mistake you made last time and you do it all over again.

Issue #3: The cost
Being a single guy, I have only my income to pay for my eating habits. You might think, “this may be true, Greg, but you only have to feed yourself.” Yes, you are correct. But as you will see, I’m weird. This cost issue is exclusively held by me. I have no one to blame but myself. Because in theory, cooking for one should be relatively inexpensive. Especially if you’re doing the cooking.

It’s universally agreed upon that cooking at home is almost always cheaper than eating out. I grew up in a house that rarely ate out and I am insanely grateful for that. I wasn’t raised with this expectation that we get to hit up Olive Garden every Tuesday. As an independent adult, this benefits me in two ways:

  • I don’t feel the need to eat out constantly. Because I never got used to it, the idea of eating out rarely crosses my mind. The temptation is hardly there.
  • I don’t ever go to Olive Garden. Let’s face it, Olive Garden sucks. I’m 99% convinced that the only “cooking” those guys do is buy a whole bunch of Stoeffer’s frozen lasagna from Wegmans, scrape them off those cheap plastic trays, nuke them for the required time, scrape them onto a plate, and then ask you if you want grated cheese on that. If Olive Garden is fine dining, then my crappy 10 year old Honda Civic is a luxury SUV.

Anyway, where were we? Oh right. So we all agree that it’s cheaper to eat at home. But for me, that’s not always the case. Partly due to issue #2 outlined above – I make a ton of food that I struggle to finish. It’s also due to me being a total food snob. But not the cool kind of food snob. I’m the obnoxious kind.

I’m the kind of food snob that thinks table salt is a sin and I refuse to use anything other than coarse Kosher salt or Mediterranean sea salt. I have three different types of paprika. I have 10 different types of oil. That’s right, TEN. I judge anyone that doesn’t cook on cast iron. I don’t buy chicken pieces. I buy the whole chicken and separate it myself. I know when to cook with sweet onion vs white onion. And I must have that dry-aged USDA Prime 1.5 inch-thick cut of rib-eye steak with beautiful marbling, rather than a perfectly acceptable USDA Choice sirloin steak.

Anton Ego is my spirit animal.

Anton Ego is my personal food hero.

I’m just not satisfied eating ramen, Wegmans spiral mac-n-cheese, and frozen ravioli (although I like all three of those). I like to apply effort, style, and skill into my cooking (unlike these people). I’d like to think that my palate is somewhat refined.

Some people spend all their money on clothes. For others, it’s the latest technology, or cars, or perhaps travel. For me, it’s food.  But for this third issue, I’m not looking for sympathy. This is my cross to bear. If I was hurting financially, there are a hundred ways I could save money in my food budget. I just choose the more expensive route of food shopping.

The Benefits
It isn’t all bad, though! There are some good things about cooking just for myself.
1) I get to eat whatever I want, when I want. I pick the menu and I pick the time I eat.
2) I get to eat as much as I want. I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
3) I get to experiment with some new recipes and ingredients and when I royally screw up, no one knows.

Overall, if cooking for one is the most stressful part of my life right now, I guess things are pretty good. I should probably calm down.

Are you also cooking for one? What issues do you encounter? Are those issues making you a little sad? Don’t worry, here’s a link to a recipe for a single chocolate chip cookie!