Tiburón -Shark- Žralok

Tiburón -Shark- Žralok: Writing Cooking Traveling

Friday, October 23, 2009

Baked Goods, Cheese, and Peanut Butter- Eating Alone

My dinner tonight has been the simplest I've had since.... since last time R went away for a video game convention.

Hmmm, what a coincidence.

I ate the remains of meals pasts. Biscuits I baked this morning for our spending-the-weekend-apart breakfast, cheese I bought for a quiche I made for a dinner at the apartment, and some wine leftover from earlier this week when a friend came to visit. I won't go so far as to say I was looking to relive them or found any special nostalgia in these relics of time spent with friends, with R, with the stove. While over the past couple of week meals have involved hours of slaving away, allowing to rise, and special ingredients from Murray's cheeses, whenever R goes away, and I don't have friends over to make up for it it, I usually make due with some baked goods, cheese, sometimes peanut butter, and whatever alcohol is left in the house (no, I don't need it, I prefer it). That's what I eat when I'm alone.

During the summer, reviews were everywhere for Deborah Madison's "What We Eat When We

Eat Alone," a cookbook and story book about the liberties people take with their meals when they are eating with no one to judge them and no one to impress. My approach to eating alone is very similar to my friend Marc's who, upon moving into his apartment in Greenpoint shortly after arriving from France, barely had furniture, slept on a mattress on the floor, and lived on ramen, cheese, and peanut butter. When I asked why he has such a spartan diet he explained: "I ate it and then I wasn't hungry anymore." What I realized is that during the past year, whenever R was away, which was often, I usually made due in a very similar way. A slice of pizza on the way home happened frequently, as did a solitary beer at Think Coffee, bread and hummus was a classic, recently a loaf of banana bread and a jar of peanut butter became breakfast and dinner almost every night for a week. The most elaborate solo meal I fashioned was a fake fettucini alfredo and I even went so low as to buy a can of Mushroom Cream Soup. I can't be bothered to stew a chilli or sear meat or chop garlic when the only ones who are going to watch me eat are Tito and Spider, specially since they've eaten already. But it wasn't always like that, which is the funny part.

My love affair with cooking started in my little kitchen in Madrid. I began to experiment with recipes, ingredients, flavors, and cooking styles in order to save money. The semester before I lived in Prague, dining out almost every lunch and dinner, drinking at bars and clubs several times a week, and luxuriating as 25 crowns to the dollar. But when I did my little stint around Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest, and ended up flat broke in Paris at the wrong airport, then flat broke in Madrid with a three day wait for my flight back home, I learned a powerful lesson about my relationship with money: I suck at handling it. So when I went back to Madrid for the next semester, I turned a new leaf. I got a part time job tutoring the inimitable Angel Aragones twice a week for 100 euros, and packed my lunch almost every single day, splurging on drinks and food twice a week with the theater class and only one night per weekend. I guess I should also mention that was my brief stint as a vegetarian (Spain fixed that pretty quickly, though) so it was a necessity for me to provide alternatives to the countless menús del día that included jamón serrano and chorizo.

So I began making rice dishes with vegetables and curry, simple pastas, chilli, baked apples in lettuce leaves (disastrous), roasted potatoes and vegetables, even tortilla española every so often. Not much compared to what I pull off now, but then it was revelatory. When I came back to the world of carnivores, I went so far as to make chicken breast cooked with white wine, tomato sauce, and cheese. I learned to cook alone, cooking for myself. When I began cooking for others my little bubble was shattered, but also my repertoire expanded.

When R is alone all day with the cats, I know exactly what his diet is like: cereal with milk,

pastrami sandwiches from the deli, leftovers from dinner that I remind him to heat up and eat, eggs, and every so often he calls me at the office and asks, "What should I have for lunch today?" and I look through my mental inventory of available ingredients, discuss possible preparations and combinations, and reply, "I'll email you the instructions." When I create this instant recipes I go back to that time in Madrid when I could invent something on the spot with whatever was on hand, some spices, and a frying pan. I can only imagine that I'm able to do for him what I don't for myself anymore because by writing out the recipe for him to follow and asking him how it turned out (usually burned or "not as good as when you make it"), it is a form of me cooking for him but through him.

And just so you know, while I wrote this post, I finished off half a bottle of wine and several spoonfuls of peanut butter. Why can't I have a boyfriend who calls me and offers me a recipe?

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