Sunday, August 9, 2009


I've gotten to be a pretty good cook in the past few years. Limited, yes, and not haute cuisine, but pretty tasty if simple. I make a ratatouille my friends stand in line for, a decent sweet and sour beef, I'm hell with lentils and my fish skills grow daily. And of course, as any Frenchman must, I am able to create crèpes flambées which I think are called crepes suzettes in this country. I suspect Suzette was an American housewife who put on a French maid outfit when she was pouring pancake mix one day, and that's how history is made.

This being said, there are days I dribble salad dressing into the Safeway salad bag, shake it up, and that's lunch. I get tired of cooking for one, and I think the Great American Food Machine has discovered this--there is an increasing presence of meals for one where I shop, anything from veal scallopini to chicken cacciotore in small colorful boxes, designed to be popped into the microwave and consumed standing over the sink.

I first started cooking--as opposed to warming up--when I was newly divorced and living in an efficiency apartment. The kitchenette had a small sink, a two burner stove top and a hotel-room sized refrigerated cube where I kept my good vodka for guests. Since guests were never invited and therefore never came, I would drink the guest-vodka and refill the bottle from the non-guest vodka hidden behind the complete works of Walter Scott.

I didn't have a lot of money (guest-vodka isn't cheap) so I became a fried rice expert. I figured out that if you waited until the rice was done to fry the egg, the entire thing was not too gloppy and palatable. Plus, by adding shrimp and vegetable and eating with chopsticks, I could pretend I was in an MSG-free Chinese restaurant. Women tend to like a man who can cook and I learned something important: the likelihood of having a girlfriend increased in direct proportion to my abilities to prepare food.

Now I find myself still too lazy or isolationist to invite dinner guests, and often loath to cook for one. Eating by yourself is poor entertainment and can get downright lonesome. I cook in quantity, making enough to last a while. I freeze stuff, and I give stuff away.

I suspect that within a few years kitchens may vanish altogether, as have large front and back yards. We will start seeing large homes with maybe just a room with a lot of counter space, a microwave and a bunch of wall plugs. I know of one woman who never cooks and has made her cupboard and kitchen cabinets into shoe racks. I know a few who, quite literally, do not know how to boil water.

OK. I'm off to grill some oranges.

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