It’s been well-established on the internet that I am a single person who is slowly losing faith in love but trying to “stay positive” and “make better choices” and “not date any more bartenders or DJs.” While I’m generally finding empowerment in being self-partnered (yes, even at the holidays) and am the first to admit that I am prone to hyperbole, the fact remains that there are times when being single is hard. For me, there is something that feels automatically depressing about cooking for one.
Beyond the essential function of providing our bodies sustenance, cooking is generally considered to be a way to connect with other people. When I cook, however, I know I’m going to spend all this time making a meal and then eat it in about two minutes while sitting on my couch by myself, staring blankly at the television as an episode of Parks and Rec that I’ve seen eight times plays and I decide if I want to respond to an ex’s “WYD” text. Regardless of how delicious the meal was or how much I may have enjoyed eating it, my solo cooking adventures just felt like another reminder that I don’t have someone to share meals and conversation with at home.
I was tired of feeling this way about cooking for one, so I called up Amy Cirbus, PhD, a New York-based Talkspace therapist, to figure out some ways to reframe the situation.
“Think about what you can do with the freedom of only having to cook for yourself. It’s about what you can do now, rather than what you’re stuck with.” —Amy Cirbus, PhD, therapist at Talkspace
“Think about what you can do with the freedom of only having to cook for yourself,” Dr. Cirbus says. “It’s about what you can do now, rather than what you’re stuck with. You have the autonomy to make whatever you want when you want it. It’s what you feel like eating on your schedule. You can explore and experiment or stick to your favorites. There’s no compromise, you get to decide!” In other words, you don’t have to leave out garlic because your partner has suddenly he’s decided that he’s intolerant to it. If you want to have the same slow-cooker chili three days in a row for lunch and dinner, or dinner for breakfast, you can. You have to take no one into account. You’re an outlaw. A free spirit. Everything the light touches belongs to you.
Dr. Cirbus also says to think about cooking as a form of self-care. “Yes, creating meals is associated with socializing. It’s also, however, associated with nurturing and creating something for someone you love. That’s you,” she says. “Strip it back to basics and focus on how you’re caring for and feeding yourself. Make things you really enjoy and that feel and taste good to you.”
To that end, Corey Phelps, a D.C-based NASM-certified personal trainer and nutritional expert, says that one way to get motivated to cook is to make a large batch of food—chili or stews are great for this, IMO—and freeze some of the leftovers. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor long after you initially put the work into cooking and again, it can be literally anything you want, cooked and seasoned exactly how you like it.
Yes, sometimes I’d rather just order Postmates than wrap up the extra filet of salmon I would have made and whisper, “hey, this will be great for lunch tomorrow” as I place it in my fridge next to a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and my snack cheeses. Which is where my last tip comes into play: when all else fails on the motivation front, “turn on your favorite tunes —and don’t be afraid to sing and dance along,” Phelps says. I recommend Lizzo. Lizzo makes everything better.
I know now that while solo cooking can sometimes feel lonely and uninspired, it also makes me the master of my own menu, which honestly is pretty fantastic, IMO. Flipping that script has helped me be more at one with cooking for one.
As I think I’ve mentioned, I’m single AF—here’s how I’m getting into the holiday spirit. And this is why you should think of your relationships like fruit salads, not smoothies.