Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Widow's Kitchen - Cooking for One

I have bit of a reputation in the cooking department and it’s not a good one. Long story, short all of my opportunities to learn to cook came mostly for family parties where everyone would bring a dish to pass. Let’s just say that after you bring bright pink potatoes salad to a fourth-of-July picnic no one asks you to bring it again. (I was trying out a recipe that combined beets and potatoes but I made a fatal mistake of combining the ingredients too soon.) Early on in our relationship my husband’s family took pity on me and whenever there was a family get-together I’d be asked to bring chips or something that didn’t require a trip into the dark, unused recesses of my kitchen. With my family, I could make a good three bean, marinated salad and they were okay with me bringing that to any and all events. They knew my talents ran in different directions so my lack of culinary skills was never a running joke with them like it was/still is with Don’s family.

Anyway, I have a limited range of things I can make and most of what I can do successfully---like a pot roast dinner or chili---you can’t make for one person living alone. So here I am, a widow with time on her hands and a new plan. I’m going to teach myself how to do things in the kitchen and at least once a week I’m actually going to make a meal using an ingredient or method I’ve never tried before. As my mother used to say, you’re never too old to learn something new. I’m not sure if she was talking about me or the dog but, what the heck, this is my story so I can tell it any way I want. Jeez, now that I think about it what she actually said was, “You can’t learn any younger. Just do it!” I was a stubborn child.

As I mentioned in my 2/15/13 post I went to my first ‘cooking for one’ class at the senior center. But one thing the dietitian teaching the class said won’t leave my thoughts. She said when cooking for one you have to rethink what your conception of what a meal is. A meal, she said, can be something as simple as guacamole on whole wheat crackers with a baked pear for dessert. This was a startling concept for me to wrap my head around, having grown up in an era when a home-cooked dinner always had to have meat, potatoes, vegetables, bread and dessert and later on having hung around Don’s family full of gourmet cooks. But her comment got me wondering if I can actually come up with a month’s worth of recipes to serve one that are easy-to-make dinners.

After class I stopped by the store and bought my second ever avocado to test the dietitian’s premise. When I cut the avocado open the way the she did in class it dawned on me why I had so much trouble opening a mango I tried doing a while back. I was trying to use the same method of cutting all the way around it then twisting the two halves to free it from the pit. But mangoes don’t have a nice round ball-like pit like an avocado and all I did was create a mess. Color me embarrassed. I haven’t tried opening a mango since. Someone should tell the gods of fruit to start growing them all with peels like bananas. I'm sure we'd all eat more fruit if they did.

One thing I’ve already figured out by reading recipes that are supposed to serve just one or two is often times you still have to buy ingredients in larger quantities than you’ll use. What’s a widow living alone supposed to do with a left-over ½ a can of something or seven tortilla shells? Get a deep-freezer the size of Rhode Island? Oh, my God, now I remember one of the reasons why I hate cooking: wastefulness. I need to watch more episodes of the Iron Chef hoping they can brain-wash me into throwing more stuff out. Have you ever noticed how often they discard ingredients that aren’t the perfect size, color or quality? Those people would die of culinary shock at my house where this “cook” has been programmed to eat what I burn because children in China will starve to death if I waste anything. Bottom line: my widow’s kitchen is now open for business so if you have any tips or tricks send them my way. ©

P.S. Here’s my first tip: Don’t order a cooking for one cookbook for your Kindle. Sometimes you actually need real pages to thumb through and an index you can get at easily.

4 comments:

  1. I love this! What a great hobby and a chance to (finally) pick up that useful skill. I'll bet that you'll know you've succeeded when someone asks you to bring a cooked dish to a potluck.

    (I love beet potato salad, by the way.)

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  2. I think you must be the only one on earth who does love beet potato salad. I've only seen it that one time in my life when I made it.

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  3. Cooking for one can really be a challenge -- and I say this as someone who's been doing it for more than 30 years. I like to cook -- not fancy gourmet food, just simple home cooking -- and it took me a while after my marriage ended to figure out how to cook just for myself. I gave up on the "cooking for one or two" cookbooks pretty early on. Instead, I use standard cookbooks and normally cut the recipes in half. Half of a recipe that serves 4-6 is 2-3 servings for me, one to eat when it's just cooked and one or two for leftovers on busy days. For a long time, I only cooked fancy, complicated dishes when I invited friends over for dinner (What are friends for if not to experiment on? :-)), but eventually I decided that I'm worth lavishing a lot of time, attention and fancy ingredients on from time to time! My own solution to the ingredients problem is to buy as much as I can from farm stands, farmer's markets and produce sections where I can buy just the amount I need. If a recipe that I really want to make calls for some ingredient that I don't normally eat, I try to make two recipes that use that ingredient. I think you'll find that the cooking-for-one thing gets easier over time as you develop strategies and recipes that work for you. (And I must confess that one of my favorite things about it is that I can cook whatever I like to eat without having to please anyone else.) -Jean

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  4. Welcome to my blog, Stepintofuture. Thank you for this and the other comment you left! Thanks, also for the cooking tips. I've become obsessed lately about cooking/eating healthier. I can't wait until the farmer's markets open this year. I, too, have given up on finding a good cookbook for one although I've found the Hungry Girl series seems to have the most recipes for one mixed in with the others.

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