This story is a part of our Juneteenth collaboration with Eat the Culture, where we tapped writers and cooks to share “love letters” to their favorite Black cookbook authors.
This Juneteenth, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It is so hard for many Black people to intuitively cook meals just for one.
Maybe it has something to do with our lineage. I mean, most of us learn how to cook from our moms, grandmothers, aunties, and other predecessors. And when they cook, they do it big. Sunday dinners, family reunion barbecues, plate lunches after church service, you name it. For our ancestors, food is tradition. Celebration. A coping mechanism. A social event. We grow up with the knowledge that food has a special place in our hearts and our culture, and we typically don’t partake in these soulful meals alone.
So, imagine me in my very first apartment, frustrated that I can’t even make a pot of black-eyed peas that serves less than 6 people.
About five years ago, I moved away from all of my family in Mississippi and settled in Atlanta, Georgia to go to graduate school. It was scary, stressful, and frequently lonely. I was taking five courses a semester while concurrently studying for the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam. And like many grad students, I didn’t have a lot of money to waste on fast food.
I’m a bit “Type-A”, so I had my daily schedule curated to the hour for maximum productivity: Wake up. Shower time. Classes. Homework. Search for internships. Study for the CPA exam. Call my mom so she knows I’m alive and well. Bedtime. Then I’d wake up the next day and do it all over again. Luckily, a friend who shared my love of food gifted me “Cooking Solo” by Klancy Miller.
Klancy’s introduction in this cookbook gave me a totally new perspective—cooking for one is one of the simplest forms of showing yourself love.
Before reading “Cooking Solo,” I was getting by on very monotonous meals like egg sandwiches or tuna salad (yawn). I thought that the delicious food I grew up eating was reserved for larger groups, and since it was just me, I had to be basic with my sustenance. Little did I know, cooking meals for myself would provide the type of self-care I was missing from my time in school.
"Cooking for one is one of the simplest forms of showing yourself love."
I began curating a routine in the kitchen that I still carry with me to this day. First, I crank up some music that can range from Anita Baker to Beyoncé to Frank Ocean. Then, I begin my mise en place, which is a French term that means gathering and preparing your ingredients before you start cooking. Now, I’m in a deep groove; I go into my own little world as I sauté, chop, roast, and plate my meal. And of course, the best part is truly taking the time to enjoy the food I’ve created.
In “Cooking Solo,” Klancy puts a lot of emphasis on the freedom to cook for yourself. There are no other tastebuds, diets, or preferences to account for. If you feel like eating the same thing for four days in a row, you can do that judgment-free. It’s such a liberating concept to create delicious, healthy meals to nourish and love yourself! I’m talking Kale Caesar Salad, Ginger Biscuit Scones, or Soy-Lime Beef Stir Fry. Her recipes are attainable, interesting, and a great way to expand your skills in the kitchen.
In current day, life looks a bit different for me. I am a licensed CPA with my own food blog, Coined Cuisine. I live with my boyfriend, and we have more room in the budget for food and travel splurges. I loosened up a little on my daily schedule (although the to-do lists are here to stay!). But with all of these changes, I still have the life lessons I carry from diligent nights of grad school.
Cooking solo does not have to be dull; there are so many appetizing, exciting, and inexpensive meal ideas that aren’t hard on your wallet. Although I’ll never forget the wisdom passed on to me from my ancestors—and that includes how to easily feed a party of 10 or more—I now know that I can be just as savvy in the kitchen while cooking for one.
Thank you, Klancy for “Cooking Solo” and for a fresh outlook on just how fun smaller-scale meals can be!