A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Copyright © 2018 Anita LoISBN: 978-0-451-49360-6
All rights reserved.
I put the “Lo” in alone. I’ve been dumped almost as many times as I’ve been in relationships—and I can count those on less than two hands. Spread over my 50 year life-span, that’s a lot of solo meals! So if you take that—coupled with my many years working as a professional chef—it seems that I’m particularly well-suited to write this book. Those chefs who say they can’t cook for less than 40 people? Not me—I can do math. It is my Asian birthright.
I’m also fanatical about waste. Waste is what makes cooking for one, at least efficiently, so difficult. My parents were Chinese and my father survived the Cultural Revolution. Food, at least at some point during their lives, was scarce; as a result, I was taught never to waste one bit. In cooking school at the Ritz Escoffier in Paris we were taught to utilize every scrap, and at Bouley—my first cooking job—the sous chef used to look through our garbage cans to make sure we weren’t wasteful. It is an economic issue, but also an ecological and social one. When I cook for myself, much of my food involves using the sometimes overlooked but just-as delicious parts of meat and vegetables. For example, I grew up eating broccoli stems as well as the florettes. Instead of discarding cabbage hearts, my mother gave them to me to snack on raw while we were cooking. We didn’t use radish leaves, but they’re virtually identical to turnip greens, so I generally cook those along with the root itself, which helps you include more dark green vegetables in your diet. And all those parts in the bag that comes inside of a chicken? If used properly, those parts are pure flavor – and another meal. Plus, cooking this way is important if you’re working with fresh ingredients or off a budget.
The hospitalitarian in me also dictates that meals should be balanced. (Yeah, chefs are neurotic.) There always MUST be a vegetable or two. And food should vary from day to day. It should be diverse in ingredients as well as in cultural provenance. Some days you’ll want to eat light and healthy; on other days, butter is a perfectly good substitute for love. True hospitality extends to others and to oneself. Too often we forget about the latter. This book will help you to remember how to take care of yourself.
When I’m cooking at home, I generally make ingredient-focused dishes that are fast and easy—I leave the more complicated recipes for my professional life. I’ll buy a whole chicken from a local, humane farmer, which might cost a little more, but I make sure that I use every bit. The first night I’ll break it down and place the legs and wings in a vacuum sealer bag in usable portions to freeze. If I’m alone I’ll do the same with one side of the breast, and cook the other for dinner. The bones and neck and gizzard will go into a stock right away or into the freezer for a later date; and I’ll either freeze the liver until I have enough to make a mousse or chopped liver, or I’ll make a salad with it the next day, along with the heart, for a quick bistro lunch. Yes, dining alone doesn’t mean you’re misanthropic. Nor does it have to be depressing. Cooking and dining alone can be one of the most blissful and empowering experiences you can have.
This book is for urban dwellers who would like to cook a fabulous, sophisticated meal for themselves, regardless of their circumstance. Although I have a soft spot for the depressed, jilted single, SOLO is also for those who are happiest on their own; or those who may be part of a fractured family in all its forms—quite often these days, even if we’re not single, we are left alone due to our partner’s work/family’s social obligation. This book is also for those who may have different taste than their family or partner—why shouldn’t they eat what they crave?
I hope you’ll find this book to be the ultimate guide to self-love through the best means possible—delicious food—and to celebrate the moments that you’re alone. And if my reader happens to get a date or decides she or he wants to share, these recipes are easily multiplied by two.
After all, they say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. So far, it has worked for me.