Sunday afternoon at my local gourmet market I select sea bass, pick a plump tomato and a wide zucchini. Once home I pour a nice glass of white wine, chop the tomato, dice an onion, and spiralize the zucchini. With a drizzle of olive oil and a hearty dose of kosher salt and fresh pepper I drop the sea bass into a screaming hot pan and shove it into the oven. Tomatoes, onions and a few pats of butter sauté quickly and at the very end ribbons of zucchini enjoy a few turns around their own warm pan.
I take the sea bass from the oven, mercifully this time with potholders. Commercial break: it's easy to forget potholders when grabbing a pan from the over. 99% of the time, of my time, pans are used on the stove and their handles remain cool. The remaining 1% finds the same pans put into the oven with 95% of those times being the times I forget potholders are a must for removing a pan from an oven. Every single time that I grab a handle from the oven without proper protection, I employ several four letter words and crack a raw egg so the yolk can soothe the pain on my palm. Commercial break over. With the sea bass safely removed and perfectly browned, I place it on the bed of zucchini and spoon the softened, buttered tomatoes and onions on top. I sit at the table with my dinner, wine and flowers. Dinner for 1 is served.
In my 20s I worked late, ate even later and used my NYC kitchen for storage. In my 30s I cooked for my little family of two, which became three and then four. Then four years after we became four we got divorced. I enjoyably cook for my children and lovingly cook for my boyfriend. When I cook for my kids I include myself in the meal. Same goes for home cooked meals for my man. So, I cook for myself when I cook for my kids and I cook for myself when I cook for my man. But I never cook for myself if I am by myself. Half the week I cook for my little family of 3 and the other half of the week when my little family lives 9 blocks away, I go out or order in. Eating alone at home, with food from home usually includes cereal and milk. Preparing dinner for 1 seemed sad and lonely. So, I told myself that I was tired and deserved the nights off when I had them and that I should use the opportunity to eat foods my spawn don't enjoy. I convinced myself that it doesn't matter what I eat, and the quicker and easier the better.
A few months ago, kids with their dad, boyfriend working and in no mood to dine out I surveyed my dinner options. They were endless. Half of the restaurants in the city deliver and for those that don't, Dining In, Caviar and Postmates fill the void. Endless choices, none appealing. I wanted a simple piece of fish simply prepared. I ran across the street to the market and 10 minutes later with fish grilling I cut up all the vegetables in my fridge and threw them into a pan. Forty-five minutes later I was finished eating a delicious, exactly what I wanted dinner, the dishes were washed and instead of waiting for a delivery to arrive, I moved on.
Some nights I have cravings for food I can't make myself. Some nights I'm tired, lazy and don't mind waiting 60-80 minutes for semi-warm delivered food. And some nights I crave something I can make just the way I like it with more garlic than my daughter likes and more vegetables than my son will bear. Now, since that first night, on these nights I go to the market and without a child's influence on taste or timing, I enjoy the opportunity to get exactly what it is I want.
Does it matter what I eat? Do I need to cook for myself if I don't want to? No. But I am worth the same time, effort and love I bestow on my loved ones. I am worth the shopping, washing, chopping and preparing. I am worth setting the table, deserve a nice glass of wine and a meal eaten on a ceramic dish and not out of a plastic bowl. If that's what I want. And sometimes, a lovely meal made for myself by myself is exactly what I want.
Dinner for 1 is not sad. Dinner for 1 is not lonely. Dinner for 1 is lovely.