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The Cross and the Cleaver:… Cooking for One

By Rev. Piotr

“I don’t feel like cooking” is a frequent phrase I hear. Especially among the people who are on their own, age playing very little role. Some cannot cook, some abhor it for various reasons, some simply don’t feel like it. About those who cannot afford much, I will write another time. Not feeling like it is, in my opinion, one of the key reasons why fast food places are doing so well. It is also why we have such variety of ready-made-and-frozen dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and eat-anytime meals. Some are quite tasty, while other are edible only after being drowned in ketchup or HP Sauce©.

Eating, along with many other ventures of life, can be quite a lonely experience, when you have no-one to share it with. It is even heavier of you have no Facebook account to motivate you, so you can post a picture. The loneliness of a solitary meal, and all that comes with it, was made truly palpable to me in Mandy Mikulencak’s book “The Last Suppers.” It is, in a nutshell, about a woman cooking meals for the death-row prisoners in 1950’s Louisiana. In the book, and often in real life, such meal is the memory. Memory of taste, of love, of happier times, such meal is to evoke, one more time. I am not comparing here lonely seniors, divorcees, or widowed to such inmates. Yet when we find ourselves in the dynamics of loneliness, isn’t there a feeling of desperation, resignation, and then nostalgia? Nostalgia for mum’s cooking, grandma’s baking or dad’s grilling? We might not be able to recover it, and there is nobody to cook us a meal. So how do we create an alternative to take-away or drive-through?

How about being inspired by the story of Julie Powell, who decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook? Powell’s blog became a book, turned into a movie “Julia and Julia.” No, I am not suggesting such undertaking. While I am casting no assumptions on my readers’ buying power, I am keenly aware of the availability of ingredients in Kindersley, and indeed in the whole of Saskatchewan😉.

So why don’t we try to cook our way through some cookbooks? Or some ideas at least? Let me share with you a few book ideas that I consider simple and affordable. I know most of us can Google© things to look up recipes. While some of them call for a particular brand ingredient, we can also look up substitutes when needed (or message me directly and I will be happy to help). So here are my suggestions:

  • “IKEA’s Real Swedish Food Book” (IKEA, 2006)
  • “On Toast” (Susannah Blake, 2005)
  • “Peasant’s Choice” (James Barber, 1994)
  • “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating on a Budget” (Lucy Beale and Jessica Partridge, 2010)
  • “30 Minutes or Less Fresh Food” (Parragon Books, 2006)

Let’s say by now you are busy, let’s say by now you have no intention of getting and reading any of those books, let’s say you once again “don’t feel like it.” I can understand it. Yet I want to challenge you to try a recipe. Easy shopping and easy cooking. How about a fairly quick, and easy French onion soup? Not one of those fancy baked dishes with cheese you might have never heard of, served in a dish you do not own, and prepared in a course of time you do not have; but a hearty bowl, that’s it.

You will need:

  • Heat a non-stick pan and add a generous knob of butter or several glugs of oil.
  • Add three large onions, cut in half, and sliced medium thick. Season with pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar.
  • Stir occasionally to prevent burning yet allow for caramelising (means getting a deep golden in colour without activating your smoke alarm). Approx. 30-45 min.
  • When onion looks dark gold and aroma fills your home, add 2-3 cups of beef broth (cube, can, box – whatever), or 50/50 beef broth and red wine (whatever is cheap, on sale, or stale in your fridge), or chicken broth or veg broth …. Even water will do making the soup taste very delicate.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, splash of Sherry or Worcestershire© sauce if you have it (half teaspoon of soy sauce will do the trick as well).
  • Serve piping hot in a soup bowl/platter, topped with a handful of croutons (or day old bread cut/ripped into chunks) and shredded/grated cheese of your choice.
  • Shall you be sharing this meal with someone, and if you want to impress your companion, a sprinkle of parsley (fresh or dried) will do the trick.

On a personal note…. whenever I am tired, or sad, or stressed,… whenever I need a “pick-me-up,” sauteing onions in butter does the trick. I still do not understand why there is no aftershave, or popcorn seasoning, flavoured such😉.

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