Years ago I read a book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. It was a collection of essays upon one subject: cooking for oneself. A lot of people claim they can’t really cook for themselves; they don’t gain any pleasure from it, and so they don’t really do it. When I read this book (and I’m sad to say I never actually finished it, as I was in the midst of a ravenous book slut phase), I found people who were a little more like me; people who took pleasure in cooking dishes for themselves.
I learned how to cook after I left my familial homestead. My mother, a caterer for ten years, had instilled a little bit of knowledge into my pea brain, but the majority of my skill came after leaving her apron strings. Thankfully, the family bloodline seems to carry a bit of talent in this department, as I’ve never really had much trouble picking up a knife. I recall fond days of learning how to dice an onion properly in my first bachelor apartment in the Beaches or making my first curry with red lentils. I knew I was getting better in the kitchen when Ms Alex, a good friend from high school who had grown up cooking alongside her mother, one day commented on how well I minced my garlic.
Direct instruction has never been my favourite way to learn how to cook. Solitary experimentation has always been the preferred method, usually with a good album playing in the background and a glass of wine in hand. It took me years after Alex showed me how to add cream to a sauce that I was able to do it successfully. My brother-in-law, a George Brown culinary school graduate, often loves to teach as he’s cooking since I tend to hover in the kitchen anyway, but I still manage to make my gravies differently than he does.
I’m also blessed to have a boyfriend who’s an amazing cook as well. He does the majority of the cooking in our relationship, and that suits me just fine, because his concoctions—which rarely come from recipes—are to die for. But he’s gone for the weekend and so I find myself in a rare moment where I get to make whatever I’d like to make.
That’s how I came to purchase an entire Striped Bass for myself this afternoon while in Chinatown. I set out to get a nice fillet of something to have for dinner, but when I saw the beauty of the little guy—and the price—I knew I had to have him for myself. Plus, I’d been eyeing the stuffed striped bass recipe from Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook for well over a year, so why not?
To that I plan on pairing a simple spinach salad—from the very same cookbook—and a cool, fresh white wine. It may not be the leanest cuisine in the world, but if you can’t treat yourself, how on earth are you going to be able to treat others? I am a bit wistful that I can’t share my superb meal with Phill, but he’s off being a rock star in Ann Arbor, so I can’t say that he’s missing too much. And there’s enough stuffing leftover for three more fish anyway, so maybe I’ll repeat the dinner a little later this week!