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Cooking for One

They are until one day you find yourself standing at the kitchen sink, gazing out the window, spooning soup directly from the saucepan or mindlessly eating a sandwich out of hand.

I remember the sad face, a tear plopping – almost off the glossy page of my oversized book. Because he was lame, the squirrel could only forage his dinner from what the other creatures in his neighborhood forest left behind. He was struggling with a rotten acorn on a mostly empty plate when the tale began.

For those of us who have cooked, or are presently cooking, dinners for one, meals can be like that of my storybook squirrel. I’ve asked myself, “Do I want to make a meatloaf and eat it all week?” An entire crock pot of stew meat and vegetables for one seems downright ridiculous. That’s how it begins.

First comes take-out. Burgers wrapped in paper, chicken parmesan sliding around in styrofoam, lo mein oozing out from cardboard containers are all expensive and full of calories. Take-out is a treat – the celebratory Friday pizza or a stop gap in a hectic schedule. I get it, but as daily fare, too indulgent and wasteful for me.

Cans of prepared soup; a simple sandwich; both seem like good choices. They are until one day you find yourself standing at the kitchen sink, gazing out the window, spooning soup directly from the saucepan or mindlessly eating a sandwich out of hand. There is no dinnerware involved. You are not a time management expert who has streamlined their routines. I, at least, metamorphosed into the lame squirrel – a divorcee whose children have left the nest.

The realization overwhelmed me. After years and years of planning menus and shopping for ingredients, my skills atrophied. Cooking for one was not the same as cooking for a family of four.

Eggs saved me.

Breakfast for dinner provided just the right portion. Scrambling or frying an egg or two with a slice of toast was an easy do. Adding cheese and mushrooms produced a tasty omelet on the stovetop. Soon, I was creating frittatas in the oven with very little effort. Roasted or sautéed veggies and little bits of protein, whether some canned beans or strips of deli ham, went into my creations.

I slowly understood that, for the most part, I no longer wanted to eat the kinds of dinners I had cooked for my children and ex-husband. I had not been the greatest of cooks and now I knew the reason. I was not a meat and potato gal. A bowl of homemade soup, a crust of bread, fruit and a wedge of cheese was what I wanted to eat to close my day.

I started buying vintage plates and bowls. I was drawn to the pretty florals of the 1930s. I was excited to plate my food on their cheery faces. How adorable! My blah white plates from my old life, which had held pork chops and chicken legs, were now enjoying a second act after I donated them to the local thrift shop.

Meatloaf and crock pot stew eventually returned to my repertoire. After all, they are comforting and hearty meals, but I notice when my grown children come for a dinner of pasta fagioli, they purr contentedly as they refill their bowls.

The lame squirrel enjoyed a happy ending to his lonely meal. His neighbors remembered his plight and each stopped by with contributions of grains and corn. I didn’t have a limp or a crutch. I simply chose a new path to explore.


Create your own frittata:

To a bowl of beaten eggs, add roasted, sautéed, chopped or frozen veggies. Add protein like cooked meats, smoked fish, or beans. Add grated or crumbled cheese. Think about sour cream or ricotta! Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. Boost flavor with hot sauce, pesto, mustard or tapenade.

Heat butter or olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add egg mixture and cook until eggs are set. Frittatas may also be baked in an ovenproof dish in a preheated, 350 degree oven until top is just set.


  1. Betsy, your story illustrates what happens when we no longer require as much. You painted a pretty word picture.

  2. Sometimes, we have to take that small but difficult step out of our rut and find a new direction. Insightful, well done essay!

  3. Even as a solitary diner, we deserve a meal made with love. And served on a lovely vintage plate. Thanks for the words that remind us that life is beautiful.

  4. Thank you for your lovely comment and reminder. Each one of us is worthy of beauty.

  5. Very moving and well-written article, Ms. Betsy.

    Thanks for sharing your always thoughtful insights.

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