When it comes to what must be done to sustain life, eating really does head the list. Like so many, including my lovely daughters Shannon and Katie, I’ve developed over time a growing fascination with cooking. I think a part of the intrigue comes from the exposure cooking has gotten both in social media outlets and on television. And while I’m surely not interested in engaging in any cooking competitions against the likes of superstar foodies like Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay, whose culinary talents have allowed them to bank millions, I do like, especially on weekends, to see what I can do knocking out a recipe. Back in a former life when there was someone else here to do the cooking, to me, the kitchen merely was a shortcut to get from the living room to the family room.
For single folks, providing sustenance has always looked quite different from those cooking for numbers. For some singles, that means patronizing restaurants far more often. However, for me, still a full-time working stiff, my restaurant visits are generally of the fast-food variety at working lunches.
As for me, a single-dweller for the last quarter century or so, I’ve found myself adopting certain practices I’m pretty certain aren’t employed by others cooking for more than themselves.
Of course, all food preparation originates with the only type of shopping I actually enjoy doing, at the grocery. I like to spread my business out among our local stores and can be spotted at various times in Chief, Meijer, Save a Lot, Ruler, Aldi and especially Walmart.
While in Walmart, of course, I’m always checking out the Great Value products, and, from the glimpse at other shoppers’ carts, I’m not alone. I’ve found a bit more scrutiny of the produce is needed there to ensure as large a window as possible for usage. The one complaint I do have, if Walmart is listening, is why are there no twist ties provided with the plastic bags for produce? Readers, give me an “Amen” if you’ve thought the same thing while there!
Once home with the goods, it’s time for the cooking part. Now, common sense tells me that, unless I want to end up joining the cast of “My 600-Lb. Life,” I have to be smart about cooking in quantities that look anything like what is seen in Coppola’s “The Godfather” when Clemenza teaches Michael how to make meatballs and spaghetti sauce enough to feed “the family” after they’ve gone to the mattresses.
However, staying with Italian-themed cooking, or actually any tomato-based recipes such as chili, I’ve found as a single fella who works full time in addition to my side-hustle newspaper work that my time devoted to cooking is limited to weekends. Any dish with a tomato base can be made in larger quantities and Tupperware-stored for far longer than other foods. I’ve also found that any tomato-based recipes can also be frozen and thawed weeks or even months later and suffer no diminution of flavor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m leery about any mayo-based creations and make sure those are accorded must-eat-soon status.
For the singletons of the world, it seems there’s always a constant battle using up the food prepared or purchased before usability expires. That means using all that deli meat before Mr. Slime makes an appearance or getting through that whole loaf of bread before the telltale green appears that makes it appear as if you may be trying to recreate the discovery of penicillin! I make it a point regularly to check the appearance and the smell of what’s stored in the fridge. While I know something’s going to take me out eventually, I’d rather it not be because I just had to roll the dice eating some tuna salad that had packed up and headed south a day or two before I stuck it in my pie hole.
As for potatoes, the max bag size this singleton ever buys is five pounds. A technique I’ve stumbled upon myself is to wash each spud and, after placing all on the counter to dry, individually wrapping each in a baggie to keep them separated. I’ve found they keep far longer that way and eliminates one of the most odiferous and odious odors you’ll ever encounter, which is when a sack of potatoes spoils. If you’ve ever had it happen, you know exactly what I mean.
As far as my creations, well, again, Emeril, perhaps the biggest celeb chef because only his first name is needed, like Dolly, Cher or LeBron, need not worry. My dishes are simple and often involve one of my great kitchen pleasures, which is chopping and dicing. My pleasure amuses my Lady Jane to no end, how I could be so enamored of what others find pure drudgery. I always tell her if I come back in another life, I hope it’s as a sous chef.
Finally, to the singleton cook, especially a full-time working stiff, I’ll tell you what I think you already know. While there are an awful lot of naughty words in the English language, one that is not on the list is … leftovers! Cook in bulk on weekends and go heavy on the tomato-based dishes.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor, and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].