Cooking for one

Sometimes, selfishness can be delicious.

Unless you live alone, you probably cook for more than one person at a time. You’re forced to take into account the others’ tastes and preferences. Sharing the meal means sharing in the compromise that is communal cooking.

But sometimes, you get to prepare food just for yourself, just the way you like it, and those are the best meals going, aren’t they?

Take, for example, one of my favorites: A breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. This is a traditional whole-family meal, partly because it typically occurs in the morning when everyone’s more likely to be home and partly because it’s an easy meal to serve the masses.

But there’s a lot of compromise built into such a breakfast. Some people like their bacon crisp and their eggs runny, while others want just the opposite. (And you know how difficult it can be to make runny bacon.) There’s over easy vs. scrambled vs. sunny-side up. Whole wheat vs. sourdough. Fresh ground coffee vs. that sludge your father used to make.

You have be a regular short-order cook to meet all these demands. Or, you ignore the demands and cook everything however you like, with the full knowledge that this will result in complaints and upturned noses and walkouts.

The true joy of cooking is cooking for one. No one to please but yourself.

There’s no greater culinary moment than getting your eggs, bacon and toast precisely the way you like them, all on the plate together at the same time, still hot. Yum.

There’s no guilt. No backlash. No catering to the whims of a small child who will only eat “jiggly” eggs and dry toast that are not touching on the plate. No complaints when it’s over. Just one satisfied customer, who maybe even got a quiet moment with the newspaper while eating.

The mere thought of it makes me relax, makes my blood pressure go down (even while my cholesterol’s going up). Makes me hungry.

When preparing food strictly for yourself, you can take liberties that aren’t allowed around the communal pot. You can “taste-test” right off the serving spoon. You can use paper plates, or no plate at all. You can lick your fingers. Everyone knows that drippy foods eaten over the kitchen sink contain no calories.

Eating alone allows you to indulge in favorite foods normally skipped because of complaints from family members. Chili dogs, for instance. Marshmallow Peeps. Lard. You can eat a giant bean burrito without worrying about the repercussions. You can make it as spicy as you like. No one’s around to see you sweat.

This self-indulgent freedom is particularly thrilling to guys. Given the chance to dine solo, guys generally go straight to The Forbidden Zone of the worst possible food choices.

I ran into a friend in my neighborhood supermarket recently. This man’s entire shopping haul consisted of a six-pack and two large bags of pork rinds.

Me: “Wife out of town?”

Him, beaming: “How did you guess?”

Of course, it’s easy to fall into a rut if you’re pleasing only yourself. Another friend told me his wife had been out of town for several weeks and, “I’ve been living on ham-and-cheese sandwiches.” Not the healthiest choice, perhaps, but I’m sure they were made exactly the way he likes them. Runny, with extra lard.

Treat yourself to a little selfish pleasure. Whip up a meal for you and you alone. Have it your way.

Caution: Too much self-indulgent food can make you “jiggly.”

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