The Food Issue: Table for One
The boon and bane of living alone
By Kimberley Jones,
9:10AM, Thu. Jun. 13, 2013
Freedom is eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Maybe you are partial to bulgur wheat sautéed with red chard, Sriracha sauce, soy sausage, and one string cheese, de-stringed and melted. If it tastes good once, then why would it not taste good 5 hours and then 10 hours later?
You should not eat soy sausage three times in one day. You know this.
Also, you worry if forcing string cheese out of its native state into meltedness releases something toxic, but you never took Chemistry.
Living alone means dirty dishes may be dropped into soapy water – an acceptable waystation between dirty and clean – and left for 3 days in the sink.
Living alone means there’s no one else to blame when you slice your finger open on a butcher knife buried under suds.
Knowing how to roast a whole chicken feels like some essential womanly thing you should know, so you teach yourself how. (Brine. Just brine everything.) It is delicious, but you do not feel any more essential than before.
Because sense memories are made when you aren’t paying attention, the smell of gas rockets you back to the summer you were 22, housesitting with a boyfriend for the novelist with the 1940s bungalow in Hyde Park – the one with the hardwood floors with hard-earned scuffs, copper pots hanging from a wire rack, and an ancient stovetop that always smelled faintly of gas, even when it was turned off. The house that felt like a gift, a brief layover in a shared ideal of what adult life was going to look like, once you had scrapped your way out of entry-level jobs and that shitty rental on South First. He will go on to live in other houses with other women, and you will own your own place someday (your own place!), where there are no copper pots – although you haven’t ruled them out – and another ancient stovetop that sometimes smells like gas longer than it should. And that gas will smell like comfort.
In fact, gas smells like danger. That’s precisely why they put the gas smell into gas. To warn you.
Home pickling is more pleasurable in theory than in practice.
Homemade granola assembled while listening to a podcast is pleasurable both in theory and in practice.
Cooking shows are infinitely calming.
Boxed raisins and milk are the best goddamn snack in the world.
You sing-song “breakfast!” or “dinner!” to your dog, depending on the time of day, but you will feed your dog the exact same scoop of dried food for breakfast and dinner. You wonder if she wonders why there are two words to mean the same thing. Then you remember the Eskimos.
When you visit your parents’ house, you marvel at the pantry and the fridge and the freezer, overstocked as if in anticipation of some end-times scenario. It’s a relief to know they are only a 45-minute drive away, which is doable on a quarter tank of gas, assuming the highway hasn’t collapsed in said end-times scenario.
When you go home, you appreciate anew the spareness of your refrigerator; no one’s half-eaten jar of mayonnaise clutters the door.
You will never satisfyingly reproduce TacoDeli’s Doña sauce, but not for lack of trying. There must be avocado in it.
You are endlessly interested in variations on gazpacho.
You will buy too many vegetables, and too much will get in the way of eating them all – a spontaneous dinner out with your best friend, another late night at work and foraging in the office fridge for sandwich fixings, a drive-thru pickup that you will regret before you’ve even finished ordering. The too-many vegetables will wilt from neglect, and it will feel like a personal failing when you throw them out.
How are you still not composting? You are very sincere in your intention to compost.
There is something secret-feeling and luxurious about reading a book in a crowded restaurant. But usually you just end up reading a magazine. You subscribe to too many magazines.
You own five different kinds of sea salt and use them all. Also: You have yet to find a dish that is not improved with smoked Spanish paprika.
Anything can be put into a tortilla.
Read more Food stories at /blogs. The Austin Chronicle’s Food Issue is on stands Thursday, June 13.