April 12, 2012

Do you like this?

Arise o sleeping giant. Awaken from your peaceful slumber and reclaim what has been so seductively taken from you in the name of convenience and expense. Resist the lure of the Bertolli frozen dinner. Rebuff the comforting bosom of Marie Callender. Turn your eye from the artful packaging of Michael Angelo. Arise single people of America! Crisp greens, fresh seafood and even the finest meats can be yours again without waste or shame.  We’re single, we’re hungry—and we’re not taking it anymore!

Even though there are currently more than 31 million single-person households in the U.S., a trip to the grocery store makes it seem like every customer is either shopping for a family of four or eating like Val Kilmer after he saw the reviews for “Island of Dr Moreau.” It’s easy to find single-serving, pre-cooked “food” in the frozen section, but so is finding pork rinds at the gas station. Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it’s worth it, and convenience comes at a price, both in dollars and nutrition. The challenge for many single people is shopping for fresh, quality ingredients and then cooking for one person without excessive waste or signing your home over to Greenlife.

The secret to cooking good meals for one has been carefully guarded for centuries by the dark lords of the supermarkets and the manufacturers whose products they ply. At great risk to my own safety I will tell you the two secrets to shopping and cooking for one: Buy smaller portions and cook smaller portions. I understand that I may now qualify to be promoted from Lieutenant Obvious to Captain Obvious, but even though this is a simple concept, if you’ve ever tried to buy one hamburger bun at your local Bi-Mart you understand that it’s not always easy to follow.  

Shopping for one means you have to be a Fresh Foods Aisle Rebel. You have to be James Dean with a shopping cart and possess a blatant disregard for the conformities of packaging. Produce priced by the pound is typically bundled by the pound. But unless you’re Chaucer’s “Summoner,” what single person really needs a pound of leeks? Pull one leek from the bundle, smile and ignore the stares of the Stepford Wives who will be shocked at your devil-may-care attitude about packaging.  Spring mix makes a great salad, but I get tired of buying a $4 bag of the stuff only to have most of it turn to green liquid in the bottom of my “crisper” drawer. Instead, I buy a single handful of spring mix off of the Greenlife food bar for about 50 cents.  

The meat aisle requires a slightly different approach. If you start tearing open packages of pork chops, store security is not going to be sympathetic to your chants of “fight the power.” Rather than buying a lifetime supply of pork chops, eating one now and throwing the rest in the freezer to get freezer burn and dry out, just ask the butcher to repackage a single cut from a larger package for you. If the store won’t do that or they don’t have a butcher, you probably shouldn’t be buying meat there anyway (I’m looking at you Walmart).

Cooking for one is primarily a matter of basic math skills, but if you spent your entire college career in the humanities building then you can break out your trusty calculator or use an online recipe conversion calculator such as for some of the trickier division. For example, if a recipe makes four servings and you plan on eating one, divide all the ingredients by four and get to cooking! Since you’ll be using smaller pots and pans, you may also need to drop your cooking temperatures and times just a bit as well.  

Now arise singles of Chattanooga and reclaim the kitchen! Stand up and take back the grocery store. Shout it from the rooftops, you warriors of the kitchen: “We’re single, we cook—get used to it!”

Mike McJunkin cooks better than you and eats quite a bit of once forbidden food. Visit his Facebook page (Sushi and Biscuits) for updates and recipes. You’ll thank us.


April 12, 2012

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