I Am My Own Serving
A World of One
People who cook on a daily basis for themselves alone receive the same subtle message that left-handers take in every day of their lives: the material world is not designed for you, so you better adapt. As both a left-handed woman and a household of one, I find it easier to use right-handed scissors in my left hand than to make one cup of cooked rice. The conundrum that defines my cooking life stems from my aversion to waste and roommates.
A material world of measurements nudges me to prepare more food than I can or should eat at one sitting. Most recipes are calibrated for 2, 4, 6 or more servings. A recipe for a serving for one is the exception very far being a rule. Rice cookers — I’ve given up on them — make it almost impossible to prepare half a cup of rice well. Food packaging — I avoid it when I can — compels me to buy more of a product than I can make for four meals. So, bags of pasta, dried beans, sugar, and flour take ages to work through. I have to have dinner parties periodically to keep reducing the backlog of dry and frozen goods in my kitchen.
The social world also sets me apart as a single householder. In the thirty years or more that I’ve lived alone, I have come to realize that couples are most comfortable socializing with other couples. Regardless of sexual orientation, coupled friends tend to adhere to an arithmetical vision of their dining table that is heteronormative in origin. They cling to an even number of guests like a superstition. However, over the years, I haven’t had difficulty in finding coupled close friends with a generous definition of an intimate dinner for friends. Nowadays, I rarely feel out of place as a single woman. Still, I wondered how many single households are there?
I read in a recent article that 36.2 million people, or 28% of U.S. households, live alone (The Atlantic, “The Hidden Costs of Living Alone,” Oct 20, 2021). That number is up from 26.7 million single households, or 25.5 percent, in the 2000 U.S. Census. I was surprised.
Going directly to the census data, I learned that of those 36.2 million single householders, nearly 20 million are women.
16% of women living alone are White non-Hispanic.
21% of women living alone are Black.
9.5% of women living alone are Asian.
9.7% of women living alone are Hispanic.
Stack that against:
13% of men living alone are White.
15.5% of men living alone are Black.
8.2% of men living alone are Asian.
9.5% of men living alone are Hispanic.
That’s a lot of people feeding themselves.
My newsletter is not about why 36 million of us live alone. We all have our own reasons. Instead, I’m motivated to reflect on my single life because I am happy and enjoy cooking for myself and others. Single householders, however, face certain challenges that those in households of two or more do not.
In upcoming newsletters, which I hope to issue once every 2 weeks, I plan on writing/thinking about the relationship of living alone to food, cooking and sociability.
Is eating with others really the most meaningful way to enjoy food?
How do people who live alone in other countries feed themselves?
How do single householders who have struggled with their weight all their lives balance self-care and anxiety?
What is it like as a single person traveling alone to eat in restaurants or in public?
When is eating alone pathetic?
How have food writers in the past dealt with cooking for one?
How much kitchen crap does a single person need?
Eating in public as spectacle.
How to handle recipes for two or more?
How to cook for one without a recipe?
Strategies to cut down on waste.
Recipes, links, and discoveries.