One of the good things about not living full time with my husband is that I can eat more aubergines. This may seem trivial, but I really like aubergines and he really hates them. It was some years into our relationship when I found this out. He had stopped politely eating them to impress me and I had lost my tolerance for seeing the meals I had lovingly (or perhaps grudgingly) prepared have all the carefully sourced and chopped ingredients forensically picked out of them. For a while I persisted in cooking my favourite meals for the family in the hope that my culinary prowess would change their tastes and they would realise how lucky they were to be served such delicious, nutritious meals. Eventually I of course realised this was a fool’s game and started saving these treats for myself when I was on my own, eating out, or had less fussy company.
In our current situation, as long as I can be bothered to make an alternative meal for my aubergine shy child, I can eat them whenever I want. Ditto olives, sweet potatoes, sprouts, chickpeas, kale, quinoa and celery. Not that I want to eat these things all the time, but I also don’t want to have to miss out on delicious recipes because nobody else will.
I have discovered there is real pleasure to be had in preparing a meal for yourself purely because you will enjoy it. Cooking for one should be an act of self love and deserves as much time and attention as you would give to preparing a meal for your whole family to tuck into.
I realised as an interrupted family and busy Mum I had two choices; to only make meals that both my son and I will enjoy to save time, money and energy, or to occasionally treat myself to something that was just for me. It’s usually meat free as I’m a part time flexitarian during the week who loves a bacon butty at the weekend but tries to eat ethically and seasonally as much as possible the rest of the time. However, I also have to recognise that my son would rather starve than eat a mushroom.
So to save my sanity, delight my taste buds and feed my soul, I try to have at least one night a week where I chuck fish fingers in the oven or stir some pesto into pasta to fulfil my parenting duties as quickly as possible and then spend some time lovingly preparing something for myself to eat that only I will enjoy. This is the pleasure of not pleasing anyone; to eat my meal in peace with a glass of wine, a good book or something on the tv that I want to watch, and enjoy my food without anyone pulling faces at me or telling me ‘it’s disgusting’.
I highly recommend it. You can make them all a lasagne at the weekend and still be a hero, but in the mean time you will feel less like a culinary slave to everyone’s daily meal demands and more like the chickpea eating, inventive super chef you always suspected you could be if nobody ever complained about their dinner having ‘bits’ in.
Some of My Favourite ‘Just for Me’ Meals
1. Nigella Lawson’s ‘Baked Mushroom ‘Steak’ Sandwich’ on crusty ciabatta with loads of Dijon mustard.
2. Aubergine Parmigiana (my favourite recipe comes from the Betty’s cookbook).
3. Angela Langbein’s ‘Chickpea, Spinach and Halloumi Stew’
4. Jamie Oliver’s ‘Veggie Chilli’ – makes extra portions to save for solo eating rainy days.
5. Cheese, biscuits and a glass of red. Enough said.