Having another person to cook for is, for me, a lot like watching a comedy show with someone else. Alone, I barely muster a guffaw or giggle at even the funniest shows, but with another person there, it feels more comfortable to allow a chuckle to rumble from my belly. Sharing the humour with someone else helps bring it to life so much that I’ve been known to slap my knee on occasion in response to a televised joke.
Sometimes, I even laugh at the Big Bang Theory.
In the same way, cooking for or with another person simply enriches the experience. Instead of concerning myself with how long something might take to bake or whether there’s any possible way that feta is still good, all of a sudden, things like aroma, texture, and colour are on my radar.
During my six years of post-secondary education, I learned to cook for myself. More specifically, I learned one really delicious way to season chicken and relied on that to carry me through most meal situations. Most of my other learning involved microwave oven settings, adding more butter and less milk than recommended to Kraft Dinner, finicky can openers, and the tedious boiling/frying timing involved with frozen perogies.
Really, I learned enough to get by, but realistically, I learned only enough to get by – after all, I was just cooking for one.
When my husband and I started dating, I somehow weaseled my way into cooking with him most nights. It started with those college standards – chicken fingers, Kraft Dinner, and perogies, because that’s what he had in the house – but eventually, I decided I wanted to start impressing him with my culinary abilities.
This of course meant I had to develop culinary abilities.
I started small. One day, I paired one of my deliciously seasoned chicken breasts with the same packaged rice and frozen broccoli we’d been eating. Another day, we did chicken fingers, but I tried my hand at garlicky mashed potatoes instead of heating frozen french fries as a side dish. Eventually, I worked my way up to lasagnas, soups, multiple courses, and foods that I had never even tried before. And my morale was really boosted along the way because my husband will eat anything and enjoy it – I couldn’t fail!
By the time we were married, I was confidently cooking ‘real’ food most nights of the week – so often, in fact, that my husband requested that we have semi-occasional ‘not real’ food nights where we could indulge on the old standards that we both admittedly loved.
So when I found out he was going to be away most nights of the week for several months, I didn’t give my food habits too much thought. At this point, I’m a reasonably good cook and I have reasonably good habits. No point in changing, right?
One petite problem – I forgot that cooking for myself is boring.
As a result, I’ve had more bowls of prepackaged soup in the last month than I had in all of 2013. That mixed frozen broccoli and cauliflower is becoming much more accessible if I don’t want to eat the same vegetable every day for a week to avoid throwing anything out. And, for the first time in probably two years, I had a can of Zoodles for lunch (it was delicious).
I look forward to the aromas and textures and colours that come along with cooking for my husband on weekends, but I just can’t seem to muster the same energy when it’s just for me.
So, if anyone is looking for some ‘real food’ on a weeknight in the next few months, stop on by and motivate me to cook. Just give me a couple days’ notice first so I can get groceries.
Otherwise, you’ll get soup, frozen vegetables, and Zoodles.