16 October 2010
my secret life of eating
When you live alone, you can gorge yourself on a secret life.
You have so many possibilities. You can spend a whole Saturday reading trashy romance novels, one right after another, but then you can tell people that you spent the day absorbed in Jane Austen, all high brow and la-ti-dah.
Or you can get caught up in a Wife Swap or Jersey Shore marathon. You can watch it hour after hour and keep track of how many times you say (out loud, even though you’re alone; people who live alone always talk to themselves), “These people can’t be for real.” Then when someone asks you what you did the night before, you can say, “Just relaxed. Took a walk at sunset and admired the changing leaves. Did the crossword in the Trib. You know.”
My secret life is this: sitting on the couch and spooning up mouthfuls of peanut butter for dinner. No bread, no celery. Just me, the jar, and a soup spoon.
I find ordinary spoons too small.
Sometimes, I pour honey right on top of that spoonful. And that’s dinner.
When you live alone, you’re allowed to call eating peanut butter while watching The Cosby Show dinner.
But if you lived with someone, that someone would probably point out that peanut butter is basically a glob of fat that coats your insides and later congregates in your thighs.
Or that someone might whine about how they’re starving and then very unsubtly nudge you away from the Huxtables and towards the stove, the chef's knife, and a mountain of vegetables.
If you have an exquisitely wonderful someone, they may cook you a proper meal with courses balanced on the food pyramid. They’ll sit down with you at a proper table with a centerpiece of tulips they brought home for you, and they’ll ask you how your day was while pouring you a glass of red wine from St-Emilion.
None of those scenarios involve you—and only you—eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. A guilty pleasure, I know, and it’s part of my secret life. It’s my secret life of eating.
I am, in fact, a very fine cook.
I’m staring at that sentence now, that bold assertion of worth, and I’m recoiling. My Midwestern sensibilities are recoiling. I should say, “Oh you know, I do what I can, but I’m not nearly as good as…”
Then I should distract myself from any desire for attention by talking about other people who are better than me. But that’s a social requirement, learned from years of eavesdropping at church potlucks, where Jell-O salads took up half the table. The other half was split between tater tot casseroles and creamed corn.
I’m trying to move past this particular Midwestern hang-up, this inability to say with confidence and without guilt that I’m good at something.
So yes, I am, in fact, a very fine cook.
Ok, I still feel a bit guilty for saying that.
I don’t want to brag, but people do ask for my recipes, which I think is a sign of approval. Or maybe they’re trying to one-up me and make my Moroccan couscous better.
But—ah, this is proof!—people have been to my apartment multiple times for dinner. They have not found multiple excuses to avoid coming back.
I can make supreme de volaille veronique.
The aforementioned Moroccan couscous.
Pork chops with a warm plum sauce. Poulet de vallee d'Auge. Brioche.
Quiche Lorraine. Crepes. Profiteroles.
Marquise au chocolat and three kinds of flourless chocolate cake—three!
I can whip up my own crème Chantilly (so much better than Cool Whip), and I know that it’s easier to whip it by hand if you stick the bowl and whisk into the freezer for a few minutes first.
I am a fine cook, but those are the things I make when I have people over.
If it’s a Tuesday night and no one is coming over, it is an exhausting battle I fight to not open the peanut butter and call it dinner in front of the TV.
After an exhausting day at work—or even just a normal day, if I’m honest—the thought of cooking…well, let’s just say I sometimes keep peanut butter in the living room.
This is part of my secret life, which is a thing we all have and something we all get a thrill out of, these hidden corners of ourselves that are mostly innocuous. Little pieces of yourself you keep mostly quiet about, and when you do share, you get that heart race of being known by someone, even if it's just in a small way about something that seems very everyday ordinary.
Such as what you choose to eat for dinner sometimes.
And there goes my heart race of being known for the day. That's what I get for sharing part of my secret life of eating.