table setting 300 What do you eat when you are alone?

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I had what I call my ‘single gal’ dinner last night.

For all you foodies out there, grab a pen and paper and note this down:

Cook some 2-minute Mi Goreng noodles, empty a tin of tuna on top and shove in a stalk of spring onion (to make it, you know, balanced.)

I ate this at 9:30pm, in bed, watching 30 Rock on my laptop.

Do you know what I had for dinner the night before?

No?

Neither do I, but it was in a Tupperware container and didn’t taste off, and apparently I’d cooked it at some earlier stage, though I haven’t been home for dinner for like 2 weeks…

The night before that I had a banana because I was tired and my kitchen still hasn’t got the hang of cooking meals itself, no matter how long I stand in front of the open fridge staring at its contents.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love food. I’d marry food in a civil ceremony if only they’d make it legal. I just wish it would meet me halfway and prepare itself.

I haven’t always been like this. Back when I was in a long-term live-in relationship I cooked, was cooked for and ate like later-life Marlon Brando. (Whereas now I eat like later-later-life Marlon Brando when he became an island recluse and ate nothing but frozen hot dogs.)

And before this I’d always lived in share houses where meals were often communal and had to be vaguely creative and nutritious or else face the judgement of a ravenous pack of twenty-something Gen Y-ers (and if you can find something more sarcastically snarky than that, you win a big shiny prize.)

But now that I’m living solo and cooking for one I just can’t be bothered. You know that scene in every post-zombie apocalypse film where the protagonist (who is often Will Smith) stumbles across an abandoned farmhouse and opens the fridge to find it near empty but for some turned milk and an unidentifiable mouldy mess? That’s what my fridge looks like on a regular basis and the zombie uprising hasn’t even happened yet.

I think you know what I’m talking about – you know the nights when you get home late, tired, wanting nothing but to put on something with an elastic waistband and lie semi-comatose on the couch until it’s a reasonable enough hour for ‘big sleep.’ (As opposed to ‘little sleep’ or naps, ‘big sleep’ is the one you do in bed for a longer but never long enough amount of time.)

And no matter how loud your belly is growling the rest of you just goes ‘C’mon, I worked all day and now you expect me to cook? I’ll eat tomorrow.’ Because all you want at these times is someone – anyone – to sweep in and cook for you; a partner, a housemate, a parent, Jamie Oliver who just happened to be passing by and sensed your tired hunger and wouldn’t you know he just happens to have an assortment of exotic fruits and a freshly caught crayfish on him, plus he’s been learning Shiatsu and needs someone to practice on…Sorry, where were we?

Now I’m not stupid – I know the drill: Good-fresh-whole-food-balanced-diet-you-are-what-you-eat-goji-berry-Special-K-challenge-macrobiotics. I know my body is a temple. It’s just that currently its more like one of those abandoned run down temples in the old Jewish quarters of a former soviet bloc country that doesn’t see a whole lot of visitors other than an octogenarian caretaker and a resident family of bats.

I’m sure there are people out there who thrive in the task of cooking for one but I don’t know who they are. (Possibly they’re the ones walking about with the smug rosy cheeks and non-pallid skin.) But for me and a lot of people I know, cooking for one means the kind of travesty that would make Nigella Lawson weep into her spectacular bosom.

Why is this? Sometimes I suspect it is because when you’re cooking for yourself you are under no obligation to create the illusion that you are the proverbial domestic goddess. I know I’m a domestically redundant oaf who sometimes cuts her toenails in front of the TV whilst eating my Vegemite dinner-toast. I don’t need to try and impress myself – I’m impressed enough that I manage to drag myself out of bed each day after not enough ‘big sleep’.

I’m courting someone right now and when he comes over I do culinarily impressive things like bake bread and eat at the table, but this is only to create the illusion that I am not a lazy, undomesticated slob. To quote a song not yet written by Beyonce, once he or anyone else puts a ring on it, he’ll have the exciting experience of learning that in reality the only bread his ol’ lady puts on the kitchen table is packaged in Malaysia, takes 2 minutes to boil and comes with its own sachet of MSG.

Or maybe the experience of living with other human beings again will once more inspire me to cook with more than a single burner on the stove top. Maybe I’ll stop Marlon Brando-ing and start Nigella-ing. Or maybe we’ll all just live off 2 minute noodles like a family of later-later-life Marlon Brandos. Does anyone know where you can get family-sized packets of 2 minute noodles?

Claire Varley is a writer and community development worker. Check out her blog here.

How many people do you cook for? Have you ever had to cook for one?



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