cooking for one

From The Viand Zine, Issue 2, 12 May 2007

many people often say (and, presumably, believe) “i hate to cook alone” or “well i like to cook, but only when i have someone to cook for”…

my comments here are encouraged by an interview in the June 2007 Food&Wine with Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (co-founder of, in which she announces an online course in “the emotional benefits of cooking”. i’m grateful that she’s given voice to something i thought was too personal to share. (by personal, i don’t mean private, i just mean too specific to me – not generalizable.)

years ago, working really hard, doing things i had never done before, at the end of the week i found myself yearning to get paid on a deeper level than my paycheck. i wanted to get something back for the soul and vision that i was sharing through my work each week.

i tried hanging out with lots of friends, i tried getting drunk, dating, dressing up, going out to fancy dinner… none of the recommended friday night activities touched it. i still felt deeply unpaid. i do think that a big chunk of that experience has to do with a world of alienating individualism and commodification, but i am not writing about that right now.

i stumbled upon a profound transformation. i decided that nobody else could ever pay me for that work nor heal my wounds. even finding all the wounds, understanding them, and identifying balm was a task probably beyond me.
i realized that i did have the power to listen to myself, to the quietest voice saying “sunshine on my face” or “silver nail polish” or “rocky road ice cream” or “lemon coffee cake”… and i could usually find and deliver those things. simply responding to my tiny, but authentic, desires, made me start to feel met, cared for, and paid.

i’m not sure i’ve ever found anything more loving than cooking for myself. taking the time and effort to prepare exactly what i want, exactly how i want it, to give time to that project, to move slowly, to enjoy the tools, to stir it with my hands if i feel like it, and to give it to myself.

and then there are some foods that i wouldn’t serve to anyone, but that i love, like leftover pasta toasted in the oven until it’s crispy. and there are dinners that don’t count as dinner, but they are exactly what i want, like steak and coffee.
as i moved more this way i noticed something else so significant. as it turns out, the very best food i have eaten is the food that i have made for myself in response to clear, intuitive, desire. no food is fancy or excellent enough to compete with that experience.

satisfaction, as it turns out, is not an objective experience of excellence, but a delicate process of listening and responding, of meeting myself.

i make my fruit tart just for myself, and eat as much as i want.