Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flying solo in your twenties, continued

4. Cook for yourself

“I was outside on my park bench, eating some tragic sandwich I'd assembled from odds and ends out of my fridge — sliced apple, some cheese, pickle relish. Single people eat sadly — they cobble together things left from shopping trips based on dreams of all the meals they'd fix for themselves, all the ways they'd treat themselves to something grand.”
~ Elizabeth McCracken
The Giant's House

So many young single men have nothing in their refrigerators but a six-pack of beer and a package of hot dogs; women usually keep a bottle or two of wine, designer water, and a bag of celery. I should talk — when I was fresh out of college I used to live on peanut butter and cheap scotch.

Most of us dined out in those days, which is of course lots of fun but hard on savings account, or grazed on frozen dinners or take-out or Domino’s pizza (I can’t believe I used to eat that stuff). My idea of a healthy meal was cheese and crackers or hummus and pita. I ate nothing but junk for years.

You don't have to eat poorly just because you're single. You can do better.

Cooking for yourself is healthier for you (because you control what goes into your food) and much less expensive. Something as simple as buying a take-out roasted chicken and using that in a salad or a pasta will save you money and calories, especially when compared to fast food meals.

If your mother and/or grandmothers are still living, you are fortunate indeed. Call all of them and ask for family recipes. No matter how strained my relationship with my mother was (and believe me, we didn’t speak for years at a time), she was always delighted to be asked for a recipe. It was wisdom she possessed that I (Miss Know-it-all, here) didn’t, and a way for her to be of help. We bonded over food the way some mothers and daughters do with shopping.

My dearest friend Judy, who lives in France now, taught me everything my mother didn’t about how to cook. It is still a pleasure to call or email her to ask about what to serve with what, or how I might modify a recipe.

If you have cable, you can watch the Food Network; if not, go online to or to

My favorite cookbook author is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa ( She is just delightful; she jokes that all her recipes start out with “take two sticks of butter…” Her food is hardly low-fat but I have had consistent success with her recipes.

Celebrity chef/author (and long-time crush) Tony Bourdain hosts No Reservations, a show on the Travel Channel. An interviewer asked him how to learn to eat better, and he replied:

“Find some foodies, befriend them and let them take you by the hand and feed you well. There's nothing wrong with not cooking. But finding good food isn't that hard. It's a lot like finding drugs. You know: find others with similar appetites and follow them to their source.”
~ Anthony Bourdain

More about food in my next post. Cheers.