10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

by | Jan 13, 2010

Photo by ReneS

For some people cooking alone is a chore rather than a treat, but those people don’t know what they’re missing.

If cooking for yourself seems like more hassle than it’s worth, it may be time to start thinking more selfishly about the whole business.

Eating is a deeply personal, private experience that stimulates all of your senses. We each have our own particular tastes, preferences and memories associated with different foods, and each of these can elicit an entire universe of physical and emotional responses.

When you cook for yourself, especially when you aren’t beholden to the desires of others, you have a perfect opportunity to indulge some of your favorite pleasures. Cook something fancy and high brow, enjoy a favorite childhood dish or just throw 12 odd flavors together and see what happens. You have the freedom to make what you want, exactly the way you like it.

We eat alone for different reasons at different times. Sometimes we are in a hurry. Sometimes family is out of town. Whatever the reason, taking the opportunity to cook for yourself is almost always the most interesting, convenient and pleasurable option.

I began this list on my own, but some of the points were inspired by a book I recently picked up, What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison. It is a quick read and a good source for more inspiration and recipes.

10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

  1. Splurge. Buying exquisite ingredients to feed a crowd can be prohibitively expensive, but a single serving of white truffle can be had without breaking the bank. That is, so long as you prepare the rest of the meal yourself. If you adore Kobe beef or lobster tail, why not use a weekend alone to treat yourself to a fabulous dinner without going out?
  2. Indulge. Have you always wanted to try bacon on your oatmeal? Go for it, no one’s looking.
  3. Impress. Cooking someone a meal and sharing it can be one of the most intimate experiences on earth. Being alone is a great time to practice. Hone your cooking skills and show that special someone what a great catch you are. If you’re already spoken for, adding a few interesting meals to your repertoire is also a great way to impress your family and friends.
  4. Save. My favorite burrito at the place down the street costs about $6. At home I can make the exact same burrito for $2. Plus if I already have the ingredients around I can make it in a fraction of the time. How is that for thrift?
  5. Thrive. My personal favorite reason to cook for myself is that I have complete control over what goes in my food. Here in San Francisco, splurging and indulgence can be bought within a quarter mile in any direction. When I’m home I enjoy making healthy, nourishing food cooked exactly the way I like it.
  6. Improve. Don’t consider yourself a particularly good cook? The only way to get better is to practice. Trying out new things in the kitchen can be much less stressful when you’re alone, so take the opportunity of solitude to make mistakes without inspiring disappointment or ridicule.
  7. Hurry. If you cook regularly and have a decently stocked kitchen, you can make yourself a meal faster than most places can make one for you. Driving somewhere, waiting in line, ordering and waiting for your food may seem like the fastest option but it usually isn’t.
  8. Perfect. Is there a dish at your favorite restaurant that you wish you could recreate at home? Try it one day when you have some free time. You might not get it exactly right the first time, but you can probably get pretty good at it eventually.
  9. Relax. No one is home? The pressure is off! There’s no one to please but yourself. Cook at your leisure, make pancakes for dinner, break all the rules. When it’s just you there are no expectations.
  10. Experiment. Maybe you’ve always wished for a quick and easy dessert that doesn’t have any added sugar. Maybe you’re curious if lasagna can be made in a skillet instead of the oven (it can). Indulge your cooking curiosities when no one is looking and you have a little extra time to play around.

What do you love about cooking alone?

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10 Responses to “10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone”

  1. Allie says:

    My favorite part of cooking alone is the leftovers. I’m really good at making 2 person meals (me at dinner and me at lunch the next day) but when I’m cooking for someone else I never seem to end up with as much as I think I will.

  2. Sandra says:

    oh, that book is on my to read list. Great post.

  3. Matt Shook says:

    My primary reasons would be #5, #8, and #9. As I explained in my comment on this post (http://summertomato.com/how-to-become-a-great-cook-without-being-a-chef/), I really like being able to have complete control over my ingredients and make my meal exactly how I want it at that moment. I also find it to be rewarding to eat a great meal that I whipped up myself…(and to be fine with it if it goes awry! No expectations!) 😉

  4. Janet says:

    Love it! Of course, I live alone and mostly cook for myself, so this list really speaks to me. I love making decadent meals just for me – a Marin Sun Farms filet, mashed potatoes, haricots verts or whatever vegetable happens to be in season, and a glass of red wine. A meal like this is occasional, but such a treat.

    Of course my other favorite reason for cooking alone is you get all the leftovers. 🙂 Hello, next’s day’s lunch!

    A friend was recently talking to her husband and said she just doesn’t have time to cook or prepare meals for herself. He said, “hold on a second. If you don’t have 15 minutes to take care of yourself and treat yourself well, what *do* you have time for?” That really resonated with her – and with me!

  5. Dana says:

    I love cooking for myself. I can really make something absolutely incredible and cook it for as long as I like and eat it for an hour or as long as I like, enjoying every single bite. my favorite is going to shop for the best ingredients and have no idea what will happen with it until it all comes together in one absolutely fabulous dish, or many fabulous dishes. i have a pretty eccentric palate and feel much more ambitious and experimental when I don’t have any other critics besides myself. also gives me great ideas to do for friends and spoil them knowing i can prepare meals to knock their socks off! …. and i’m not talking heat as much as flavor! no one will ever accuse me of lack of flavor. maybe sometimes too hot, but I’m still learning some of the lessons around “less is more”, especially since I love chilis and spices from around the world. though i’ve known it for the past 20 years in aromatherapy, now it blends into my passion for cooking.

    the most important advice i can give is to experiment constantly! go to your local ethnic markets and grocery stores and ask a lot of questions. buy new spices!!! buy ingredients you know nothing about and search the web and ask around for advice for possible preparations!

    If they don’t speak english, there is a good chance you can find someone younger around you can ask “what does your mother or father do with this ingredient”. you would be surprised how many kids, teens and young adults work with their parents in the kitchen and know how to prepare much of what the family traditions have brought down through generations. plus you get to meet awesome people. most people love to share their customs and are willing to give you significant information on ingredients.

    I still recall many years back in little saigon at a local market where none of the employees spoke any english, i asked a young adult in the produce department what his mother did with bitter melon. the first thing he said was “i don’t like this” but was still open to describing the pork and rice filling that his mother stuffed the melon with. I still haven’t had the gumption to sample bitter melon, but can say that I’ve tried durian – three whole bites! didn’t like it, but willing to try again someday! also wouldn’t recommend eel liver in japan, but totally recommend Uni – a/k/a sea urchin! make sure there is no fluid around it for it to be really fresh; if not, it can be the worst!

    enough for now

    eat, be healthy and be merry!


    PS: Recommend incredible book “the Last Supper” by famous chefs who describe what their last meal would be before they die. most of them are very simple for such complex tastes as you would imagine from all of these famous chefs. the best part of the whole book is the pictures!! totally awesome! Anthony Bordain is naked! gotta love Tony!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Great insight, Dana. It sounds like we have the same approach to eating. You definitely intrigued me with that naked comment. I’ll add the book to my list!

  6. David Gans says:

    We read “What We Eat When We Eat Alone” and really enjoyed it. Some interesting-looking recipes in there among the stories, too.

  7. Peter says:

    Glad to see #10 on there! I like cooking alone for reasons analogous to why I sometimes prefer biking alone: I can take whatever route I want and get lost innumerable times and not worry that I’m ruining someone else’s experience. And frankly the getting lost is the fun part sometimes.

    That said, I do have a kind of pathological drive to eat whatever I cook, even if the experiment is drastically unsuccessful. And that is not so often the fun part. Should probably be more willing to cut my losses…

    Awesome that people like Deborah Madison are writing books with titles like that; I’ll check it out.

    /Serve it Forth/ has a chapter “On Dining Alone” that I remember liking, although I think it is at least equal parts on dining out alone rather than just cooking for yourself. But the anecdote on Lucullus is still apropos.

  8. Kimberly says:

    I am new to all of this new cooking and eating alone. I have been living with my boyfriend for over a year and we cook together. Recently he got a new job and is gone for 3 weeks at a time so its taking some getting used to.

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