Okay, so my name is Patrick and I’m a single foodie. By which I don’t mean I’m one single foodie among thousands (or millions if we’re talking about social media – I’m looking at you, Instagrammers), but rather that I’m a foodie and single.
And most of the time that’s a delicious way to live. I can eat what I like when I like in whatever combination or volume strikes my fancy. I don’t have to watch my weight for some theoretical partner because their opinions about my weight or shape are also purely theoretical. As the old song goes, I don’t have to share a pair of pork chops when I crave champagne and cheese.
And I never, ever, have to cook broccoli.
But sometimes, just sometimes, life as a “singleton” can leave me feeling like they ran out of even the leftovers before it came to my serving.
That time is usually the weekend. When you’re single, weekends can be the absolute worst. Your paired-up friends are all busy doing paired-up things; your other single friends are out on dates; your hoped-for date has fallen through – all of which threatens to leave you two nights and days of free time suddenly opening like a black abyss, blacker than the work week to follow.
In short, weekends can be lonely.
It’s on those weekends that I get very tempted to “eat my feelings”, or-worse- drink them. It’s all too easy to erase “empty” time by diving into a magnum of cheap Prosecco or a catering-sized jar of peanut butter. And Lord knows I have. But that magnum of Prosecco will just leave me with a hangover with magnitude, and repeatedly eating my body weight in peanut butter is playing a numbers game that will ultimately severely affect either a) my colon, or b) the global peanut crop.
So instead of eating my feelings, I’ve learned to feed them.
I get generous with myself on those weekends. I cook and I think only of myself as I do so. The weekend that I’m feeling bereft and alone is the weekend that I spend my Saturday nursing a batch of ragu generous enough to feed me eight times in the weeks to come. That ragu eats time, and in the best way. You have to be around to stir them onions and garlic and oregano while they’re sauteeing, and then the ground beef needs its share of attention. You must stay engaged so you don’t miss the right time to add milk, then wine, followed by the tomatoes and passata at their appointed moment, before you can let it just simmer away for hours. None of that means you’re hiding from being alone. Quite the opposite. You are concentrating on being alone – on creating something for you alone and concentrating on making it delicious!
I won’t be eating that ragu on that Saturday and I won’t need to. Because that Saturday is also the day I’ll have taken some of the money I might have spent on a date and spent it on myself, buying a really good cut of steak and a small bottle of better wine for my dinner.
I’m not only generous with my time when cooking for myself but I’m generous with my time when shopping for myself as well. I’ll write myself a shopping list, but I won’t set myself a shopping deadline. The day is mine. I ignore the weekend crowds and their jostling and focus only on what I want. I basically take myself out on a food shopping date. And with only me to please, the odds are that I’ll get it right.
Once I’m home and the ragu is underway, it’s popcorn made in a big old pot — not a microwave, so it’s just as buttery and salty as I like — then it’s just me, the sofa and an old movie until it’s time for that steak dinner.
The dinner will also be done just how I like it. With some onions maybe, and on a bed of spinach that cooks under the steak when I lay that seared black (but totally blue on the inside) steak on top. Because that’s how I like it.
And, just before bed, ladling my cooled-down ragu into little single-serving containers and popping them happily into the freezer.
My “Feed My Feelings” Sunday is all about scrambled eggs with mushrooms on toast for brunch, and again, it’s not like it’s a stressful thing to cook. There’s no self-imposed pressure of trying to perfect an omelet. There’s just me throwing a few sliced mushrooms into a frying pan with butter and then, once they’ve browned and are giving up their juices again, adding in a couple of beaten eggs and some chives and stirring for the couple of minutes it takes them to cook. Slap the result on a couple of pieces of buttered toast and my mood is instantly gregarious, and set for the day.
On that evening, once the laundry and other Sunday chores that we all have, single or not, are done, I could go for a helping of that delicious ragu. A big bowl of pasta in front of Sunday night tv never goes amiss. But on those weekends that have, as a dear friend put it, “become a ME weekend”, I have a better plan.
Crab linguine with lemon, fennel, garlic and chili.
It’s a fantastic dish I normally reserve for when I want to impress an impromptu date who’s wound up back at mine and hungry. But why wait? I am at mine and I am hungry — and taking this from recipe from dinner for two to dinner for one needs only one gloriously self-serving alteration. So why not just make it for myself? My belief in this plan was affirmed when a dear friend of mine did exactly the same thing.
Feeding my feelings is different than eating my feelings. When I’m feeding my feelings, I’m feeding the feeling that I am worth not just feeding, but feeding well. I’m feeding the feeling that I am worth a sexy delicious dinner, regardless of whether I have company or not. It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s the steak I spent money on rather than a round of drinks at the bar. If somebody else cares to join me, that’s great. But I’m having this either way.
As for the crab linguini – it’s an extremely quick dish to make that serves very well as a sexy precursor to goings-on with a date but is equally fantastic as me-time dish for you, the sofa, and maybe some ever-so-slightly dirty tv. Because single or not, it does one good to round off a weekend.
CRAB LINGUINE WITH LEMON, FENNEL, GARLIC AND CHILI
You will need:
- 80g dried linguine
- three generous glugs of olive oil, or enough to generously coat the base of a small frying pan
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced.
- 1/2-1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, depending on how hot you like it
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- the grated rind of a lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 120g of cooked white crab meat
- a small handful of parsley, loosely chopped.
What you do:
- In your pasta pot, get your linguine cooking in plenty of salted boiling water. Once the linguine is in, add the olive oil, garlic, and lemon rind into a medium frying pan and set on a low heat.
- Keep stirring the pasta as it cooks (because you should) and keep an eye on the garlic, chili and lemon rind as they come up to heat and start to sizzle in the pan.
- Once they’re fragrant, and when you think the garlic is about to actually turn brown, add the lemon juice to the pan, give it a good whisk, and turn off the heat. Basically, you’ve just made a fabulous warm vinaigrette.
- Once the pasta is just al dente, drain it, then, if your frying pan is big enough, add the linguine to the frying pan, or tip it back into the pasta pot and tip the warm vinaigrette over it. This is where you throw in the cooked crab meat and the parsley. Toss thoroughly, then decant it into a bowl, take the bowl to the sofa, and turn on your favorite Sunday night tv.
The recipe alteration? That crab is enough for double that amount of pasta, but who cares? It’s for YOU!
When you are feeding your feelings, you aren’t indulging your loneliness. You are affirming your taste buds and what you want out of life, as opposed to what you’re getting. It’s not about drowning yourself in bowl of food, but rather celebrating that you can provide, that you can satisfy. It is about the process of being you. It’s about, in the kitchen at least, showing your appreciation for YOU. And that’s more than good enough.
That’s probably damn tasty.