Cooking for One Guy
I suspect that many people who write about cooking for one are not themselves single diners. For my part, while I learned a lot from reporting today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about solo cooking, once I finished writing I made dinner for my family of four.
But Joe Yonan knows firsthand whereof he writes when he shares his culinary tips in the Post Food Section's monthly column "Cooking for One." Yonan tells me he lives alone -- with his dog -- and balances daily his love of good food, his lifelong effort to maintain a healthy weight, and the reality of a busy work schedule when preparing his one-guy meals.
All that adds up to an eclectic and enticing menu chez Yonan. Listening to him talk about the simple meals he whips up makes you realize that cooking for one doesn't have to be boring.
Yonan, 43, says he faces the same concerns about dinner as the rest of us: "Like everybody, I am exhausted at the end of the day," he says. "I get home late, and I'm scanning around for something to keep me from dialing the nearby Chinese takeout.
"If there's not something readily available, I start grazing, and it's not good," says Yonan, who calls himself "someone who has struggled with weight, a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.
"It's a disaster when I just dip into the peanut butter with a spoon."
So Yonan has armed himself against just such situations. "I have the most shockingly well-stocked pantry, freezer, and refrigerator," he says; he also relies on a collection of staples plus seasonings and extras -- pickled onions, for instance -- to keep flavors interesting. His everyday meals revolve around a few basic items that are nutritious, quick to cook, freezer-friendly and satisfying.
Yonan likes his eggs fried in a nonstick skillet "with a tiny bit of olive oil." He doesn't flip them, he says, preferring to "put a tiny amount of water in the pot, cover it with a lid, and let it film over." Yum. Other times he'll slowly scramble his eggs over very low heat, salting them before cooking to keep them tender. "I stir them slowly, so the curds form slowly," he says. "Sometimes if I'm feeling naughty I'll do this in a little bit of butter."
Other times, Yonan goes for bulk. "I'm a volume eater," he says. "I want a lot of food." Sweet potatoes are a favorite, as are corn tortillas (better for you than the flour variety) from Trader Joe's, of which he'll have three or four, each with a little bit of meat and lots of vegetables. He finds using small bits of meat mixed with tons of veggies as a taco stuffing more satisfying than just plunking that same amount of meat in a single piece on a plate, which he says "looks pathetic." He keeps individual portions of chicken in the freezer, along with those tortillas. And "When I'm really on my game, I have on hand veggies I've roasted or sauteed." Dessert these days is usually some "nonfat Greek yogurt and my own jam," he says.
Of course, sometimes a guy's gotta get takeout. As this article attests, Yonan has made an art of reusing the abundance of white rice that comes with the Chinese food he occasionally orders.
Yonan notes that not all singleton cooks are cut from the same cloth. "There are two reasons that there are so many single-person households," he observes. "Many people are outliving their spouses, mostly women. And young people are getting married later and later, so there are all these single 30-somethings." The "Cooking for One" column, he says, "tries to get both of these perspectives."
And while Yonan says that in his evening meals he tries to counter the excesses related to his job as a food editor, which requires him daily to taste and weigh in on many food items that don't necessarily have his good health in mind, on special occasions all bets are off. "I cook elaborate dinners for friends in which those [health] considerations go right out the window," he says.
Are you a cook-for-one cook? What challenges do you face, and what freedoms do you enjoy? And what's for dinner tonight?
Don't miss today's Lean & Fit newsletter, which features recipes for single cooks. To sign up for the weekly newsletter go to http://washingtonpost.com and search for "newsletters."
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