Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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What I Eat When I Eat Alone

posted by in Recipes

This is what I eat when I’m alone at home.

My Bin says that he’d rather starve than eat alone. I don’t agree – when I have to eat I’ll eat, I don’t care if I’m alone or not. Many people assume that because I’m a food writer, I dine spectacularly on a daily basis – that’s only partly true. There are occasions when I do dine spectacularly – and with many people, at that – but those meals are few and far apart. And I eat alone far more often than people think.

I put great stock in whom I choose to eat with. Eating is such an intimate activity that to do it with those who don’t treat food with reverence is a heresy. I still remember the worst people I’ve ever had the displeasure of dining with: the man who chomped on every bite with his mouth wide open, the woman who found it important to mention how many calories were in my home-cured corned beef, and in college, the man I was dating who accused me of “…having an appetite like a man.” Food is one of the three most important things to me, and frankly, if you don’t feel the same way then we’ve got no business eating together. It’s not me, it’s you.

Writers, whatever it is they write about, live solitary lives. I’m no exception. Cranking out creativity in words requires an immense amount of brain activity and I don’t like to be interrupted. So it follows that if I work in solitude, I dine in delicious solitude. Quite right, that. My writing is done in my home office, surrounded as I am in a large space that I call my library because of my 2000+ food books (frankly, I’ve lost count). I work best during the day so once the morning rush has abated, breakfast and lunch are mine for the taking.

I eat quite virtuously when I’m at home alone, often quite sparingly, too. Having just myself to dine with makes me see just how much I loathe having to turn on the stove, so most of the time, it’s really simple stuff for me. For lunch, I can survive on a cup of yogurt and roasted nuts or a peanut butter-banana sandwich. Sometimes, when I’m in the throes of a rivetingly good cookbook, I’ll get inspired and whip up something from it. Not too long ago, I’m flipping through Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book, “Good Tempered Food,” and I’m mesmerized by her version of Piemontese Bell Peppers, little bell pepper boats “…transporting a cargo of anchovy, garlic, olive oil, and herbed cheese.” Doing a riff on her recipe, I make my own. It doesn’t look as nice as Tamasin’s, but it suffices.

For dessert, stimulated by the glut of nuts that have taken residence in the darkest corners of my freezer, I make an almond macaroon cake, a pillow of a cake imbued with the softest whisper of lemon and cloaked with a macaroon top, its crispy outside giving not a hint of its sticky-chewy inside. Glorious. I share it with my Bin and Boo when they come home, and they love it too.

Speaking of my Bin and Boo, a lot of what I eat when I’m alone doesn’t pass muster with them. My food is either too healthy (a ramekin of sautéed spinach and garlic), too strange (meatloaf – which I love and don’t understand why they’re averse to it), or too scarce: my Bin doesn’t see how I’m content to nibble on just two ears of corn at mealtime. He calls it ridiculous, I call it lunch. Neither is he amused at my idea of a decent lunchtime beverage: an ice cold kamias shake blitzed with nothing but kamias, water, sugar, and ice. “My god, the acidity will kill you, honey!” He rails. I wink facetiously and continue sipping on.

When I’m alone and I choose to spare myself the hassles of cooking, I believe I’m exercising a form of greater self-love. As the one in charge of meal planning for my family, it’s a relief to not have to take anyone else’s preferences into account. Eating is a matter of taste and my taste can’t always be good taste. So I eat off of the indestructible-but-still-in-good-shape Corelle plates I received 12 years ago as a wedding gift, instead of the pretty dishware seen in my food photos. Most of my alone-meals are generated by random out-of-pantry raids, an activity that produces strange meal combinations like a quarter of a block of tofu and a blueberry muffin. Some days, I’m more coordinated: I press a day-old pandesal into my panini maker, stuff it with sardines laced in tomato sauce, add a few onion rings, and add enough chili powder to clear my sinuses. My Bin doesn’t like sardines and Boo doesn’t abide spice, so this sandwich is heaven for me.

But there are times, and I can’t say this happens often, when I deign to turn the oven on and I make myself an edible miracle. Eating alone is a fact of life – my life, at least – and I want to make the best of it. But only sometimes.

So I knead together some bread dough and bake a pizza-for-one topped with roasted vegetables, kesong puti, anchovies, and enough whole garlic cloves than should be legal.

Another day, inspired as I am by a visit to Peanut Butter Co., I create my own version of cold noodles with peanut butter and scallions. It’s so good that it deserves a glass of a late harvest wine that I keep for special occasions. Like this one.

One day, after writing a particularly brutal post, one in which I feel every sentence bleeds out of me, I glumly peer into the fridge and put together an ersatz version of panzanella (see cover photo), Italian bread salad. My day-old farmer’s bread is tough, the accompanying eggplant, tomato, and spinach, wilted versions of their formerly vibrant selves. It’s not a landscape that promises good eating. But as I eat slowly, exhaustedly, while gazing out my library window, something happens. The olive oil has slaked the bread’s thirst, making it malleable, chewy. The oil does the same thing for the vegetables, revivifying what was lost. My taste buds rejoice, my creative soul is re-energized.

I never eat alone, really. I have myself – and the food I love – for company.

Tell me, what do you eat when you’re alone at home?

31 Responses to “What I Eat When I Eat Alone”

  • When I’m alone, buttered toast with sugar is my version of heaven.

    A can of sardines, sauteed with a lot of onions and seasoned with soy sauce & vinegar is a cozy 1 person meal.

    And when all else fails, fried rice made up of whatever is leftover in the fridge is my go-to meal.

    Man, I’m hungry!

    [Reply]

    Risa Reply:

    When I have 20 minutes, a quick carbonara- 10 minutes to boil, 10 minutes to cook the pasta while I render bacon fat and throw in some garlic salt and pepper, take off fire and quickly stir in a whisked egg.

    Otherwise soft boiled eggs and toast.

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  • Usually it’s just leftover dinner for lunch when I dine home alone. That accompanied with either the television or a good book to read.

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  • “Eating is such an intimate activity that to do it with those who don’t treat food with reverence is a heresy.”

    AMEN to that Lori! I don’t really mind eating alone. Good food is like having good companion. :)

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  • When I’m home alone (well, not counting these last few months, because I’m studying), I usually crave for toast. If I want something sweet, it’s Nutella. That means I warm my toast twice, once to toast the bread, and another time to warm the Nutella. When I want savory toast, I look for queso de bola or quesong puti and melt that over bread with a drizzle of olive oil, herbs, and a dash of salt.

    My other alone food includes tuna and rice, a vegetable omelette, or pasta for one – warm water over the stove brought to a quick boil, garlic and tomatoes in the pan, and my pasta is ready in less than 25 minutes.

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  • These are normally for my midnight meals alone. KOKA instant noodle soup (any flavor) mixed with 1 raw egg after turning off the flame and topped with either 2 vegetarian gyoza or any leftover meat from previous meals. Or salmon spaghetti – have two variations. Homemade veggie pizza with fresh arugula. Leftover red spaghetti or baked macaroni — I eat more at midnight than I do at dinner–really a bad habit.

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    Lori Reply:

    Cel-
    I really like the idea of egg on instant noodles plus gyoza. Now there’s something I want to try!

    –lori

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  • 1) ice cream
    2) frozen pizza
    3) Dr. Pepper or Cherry Coke or Ginger Ale
    4) anything chocolate especially dark chocolate

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  • fried chicken wings.home made gravy.personal pizza.

    from-the-corner bbq.rice.coke

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  • I am the most unhealthy eater when I’m home alone. Especially when there’re no leftovers from the meal before. What I do is scrounge around for whatever there is in the pantry and fridge, then I smack my lips to see what my taste buds are craving for. At times, I can whip up a nice bacon and garlic in olive oil pasta dish or I just open up a pack (or 2) of instant pancit canton. Sometimes, it’s just peanut butter sandwiches. Oh and when I feel weird, I put a freshly fried hotdog in the peanut butter sandwich. The mix of sweet and salty is just oddly comforting.

    Oh, I also like meatloaf like you. I like the one Apartment 1B does. I also like kamias shakes and 2 ears of corn IS a meal.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    MellowMarco-
    A freshly fried hotdog in a peanut butter sandwich??! Mercy me!

    –lori

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  • Hello. Long-time reader, first time commenter. First, thanks for al the great reads through the years. Second, this blog entry reminded me of something about the jobs of eating alone which I wrote in in my own blog a couple of years ago – http://mid-life-angst.blogspot.com/2008/09/using-eggplant-to-pleasure-yourself.html

    [Reply]

  • It will depend on what I want to eat. Most of the time I cook some pasta (usually good for two but I finish it in one sitting), mash some spicy spanish sardines in some of its oil, add more olive oil with lots of parmesan cheese and toss the pasta in. Yum!

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  • - hot pan de sal with butter+liver spread
    - tasty bread with ube jam (from good shepherd)
    - tasty bread with cheese whiz+Vcut chips

    and yes, i am a bread person :)

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  • I’m with you Lori…I love the company I keep when I eat by myself! I actually love cooking for myself. Feeding myself (while I was working abroad and had no one to cook for me) was a big reason I fell in love with cooking in the first place! When I’m alone here I take advantage and prepare stuff that C isn’t too fond of but I am — pesto or cream based pastas, dishes consisting of all veggies, pancakes/french toast, salmon with creamy leeks, or cake! :)

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  • Oh, and I also love meatloaf! Have you tried the one in Mr. Jones? :)

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  • I love these two things:

    1) Eating a ripe banana and dipping it into powdered milk (preferably NIDO brand)

    2) Eating roasted garlic drizzled in olive oil.

    3) Steamed broccoli–sauteed in generous amounts of garlic and sesame oil.

    I love eating, I enjoy everything about eating–regardless of the ambiance! I get a kick with eating at a whole-in-wall persian place or a posh buffer restaurant.

    Eating for me is totally sacred because it gives us freedom to choose the food that consumes our body and mind.

    [Reply]

  • peanut butter on toast is what I eat when alone.

    Luckily, here in the Philippines, I’m never alone…and we have a cook.

    [Reply]

  • Dinner just for me, it takes 5 minutes to put together.

    Bag of Salad + whatever veg is in the fridge + sesame seed dressing or dijon + jap mayo as dressing.

    Recently had a mixed lettuce, red peppers, cucumbers, avocado + sesame seed dressing (it’s from a bottle)

    So fast and so good :)

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  • in my world there’s nothing like good-quality canned corned beef like Palm, and here’s what i do: tomatoes + onions + corned beef + soy sauce + 1 tablespoon water + white pepper + crushed basil leaves. YUM!

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    Angie Reply:

    Irene, we do Palm with sauteed cabbage and potatoes. I’ll try your version soon.

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  • I’m alone now and I’m eating Doritos, Lay’s Potato chips and M & M’s. Craving for Ineng’s BBQ, Purefoods hotdogs (jumbo), banana cream pie, yogurt – all of which I eat when I am alone in Manila.

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  • i’ll eat just about anything, transform leftovers, or something that’s easy-like pasta.

    eating alone does evoke a different kind of fun for me. and always, i am happy that i can make whatever i like to eat. now that’s a blessing!

    [Reply]

  • Slices of onion and a tablespoon or two of peanut butter in my instant noodles.

    [Reply]

  • These days when I am alone in the house, I just grab 2 pcs of wheat bread and spread a generous amount of garlic butter or peanut butter, drink oolong tea or low-fat milk and I’m done.

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  • Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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  • pack of raisins… baker’s fair potato bread drizzled with olive oil and italian seasoning, then toasted (much cheaper than buying foccacia bread from cibo!!)… haw flakes (my all-time fave)… or a hastily stir-fried mixture of chopped tomatoes, cheese, italian seasoning, garlic, and olive oil.

    all best served with coffee. =)

    [Reply]

  • Kamias shake!? My mouth waters at the thought! :D

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  • when I was living alone my staple food would be ground pork and beef sauteed in onions+garlic+taco/burrito seasoning placed in a container and veggies like shredded cabbage/lettuce, tomatoes, onion rings, bell pepper and cheese all in their own containers, i would just mix them all together to make me some taco salad with mayo+sour cream + garlic powder dressing then toasted bread with velveeta and an iced cold coke… makes for easy meals after work, i can eat this everyday! burn it off walking for an hour everyday.. haay! miss those days… now i have to prepare meals for the hubby and kids everyday!

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  • I don’t mind (even when I had the option of eating with someone or anyone) eating alone. In fact, I prefer it. Simpy because I can enjoy the meal more without interruptions. How difficult is that to understand I always tell my friends when they ask.

    So far, this is my favorite post.

    [Reply]

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