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The bliss of someone else’s cooking

August 11, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

Sometimes, the best meal is the one you didn’t have to cook yourself.

I was reminded of this recently when I visited a friend.

We passed a pleasant evening lounging in her back garden enjoying a beautiful summer evening.

During the evening, she popped in and out of the house periodically, throwing a dead animal on the grill after one trip, putting together various vegetables and side dishes on others, until eventually she set out a rather tasty meal on the festive board.

It was nothing fancy, but it reminded me that a meal that someone else prepares is one of life’s most decadent simple pleasures.

It really doesn’t matter what is on the menu. It is the joy of not having to do it oneself.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy cooking and baking. I don’t mind spending time in the kitchen.

Some of my happiest memories are of the times when we had big groups of people stay for the weekend.

I would spend hours preparing things in advance so I would be able to spend time with guests during the party.

Breakfast was my favorite meal on these occasions.

I would get up early and turn on the oven, and then I would start by grinding some fresh coffee, perhaps Sumatra or Guatemala beans from Caribou.

Then, I would take the quiche I had prepared the night before out of the refrigerator and pop it in the oven.

Next, I would prepare a big baking pan of some sort of hash browns, adding enhancements such as cheeses, onions, or sour cream, and then slip the pan in the oven to keep the quiche company.

I would round out the menu with some waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and then I would finish the layout with orange juice (and champagne to make mimosas), and perhaps even some token fruit on the side.

The wonderful aromas would waft through he house and greet the guests as they came down the stairs to greet the new day.

But, I digress. The salient point is that I don’t dislike cooking, but the whole “cooking for one” thing just doesn’t have quite the same zing as cooking for others.

It just doesn’t seem worth the bother, some days.

One does not lose interest in eating when one is single, but one can easily lose interest in taking the trouble to prepare proper meals.

When one arrives home from a long day at the salt mine, dinner planning can seem like a bit of a bore.

Since there is no one else to share the feast, one tends to take the path of least resistance.

Simplicity begins to take on a higher priority, and foods that require less preparation (and less dishes) become appealing.

I must confess that on more than one occasion, a nice Shiraz, paired with a bit of English farmhouse cheddar and some crusty bread, has seemed like the perfect dinner menu after a day at the office.

Another problem with the single life is that we also lose economy of scale when cooking for one.

If one doesn’t mind leftovers, one can prepare things in larger quantities, but it can get a bit monotonous having the same dinner three days in a row. One can freeze things, of course, but that can be a bother, too.

There is an aura of fantasy surrounding home-cooked meals that probably stems from old television shows and movies.

When a guy got up in the morning, his coffee would be on the table and breakfast would be on the stove.

When he got home at night, dinner would magically be ready for him, and the family would all sit down to enjoy a meal together and talk about their day.

Characters like June Cleaver were always handy with a skillet.

One wonders if that picture of things was true even then, and, even if it was, it seems to be a much less accurate portrayal of life today.

That fictional picture of mealtime is definitely not true if one is single.

Dinner almost never magically appears on the table of a single person.

Unless one can convince the cat to help out, one is pretty much left to cook for oneself.

For this reason, it really is one of life’s simple pleasures to enjoy a meal (or even a cup of joe) prepared by someone else.

My sainted mother, who long ago moved on to the big kitchen in the sky, definitely believed this. She used to claim that she even enjoyed hospital food. When confronted on this point, she explained that hospital food was a treat because she didn’t have to cook it.

One wonders if those who are fortunate enough to have a cook in the house realize how lucky they are and what a sweet deal they have.

One wonders if they appreciate the person who is regularly slaving over a hot stove and dishing up the grub for them.

Those of us who don’t have that luxury definitely understand. And, we appreciate the bliss of every delightful morsel that we don’t have to cook ourselves.