Table for One

By Krista White

Cooking is inherently celebratory. Taking the time to make a home-cooked meal for your family or friends is one way of showing love, of saying “I want you to eat, and to eat well.”

I find great joy in preparing meals for others and sometimes fantasize about the hypothetical future dinner parties I will have in my hypothetical future, super cute apartment. Pot roast with steaming mashed potatoes and red wine, or maybe grilled shrimp and veggies with fresh squeezed lemonade for a summer party.

When we cook, we fill more than bellies — no one ever felt loved eating a frozen dinner. So why do we hesitate to show the same affection for ourselves?

More often than ever before, and less often than I’d like, the spirit strikes and I cook a meal, just for me. It’s part of my ongoing resolution be kinder to myself. I’ve learned to roast chicken and veggies, mastered the fine art of overnight oats, and have even begun to venture into more challenging recipes like vegan pancakes or seared tuna. There are challenges: How do I portion cooking for one? Will I want to eat the same meal for a week? And am I in the mood to wash all these pans? Despite my quibbles, making errors has been a part of the fun. It is an act of self-love, a creative outlet, an affirmation of my independence. Feeding myself satisfies the ancient hunter-gatherer in me. I can fend for myself, living off the fruits of the earth! (Well ok, with a little help from Whole Foods).

Cooking has also helped heal my relationship with food. I had developed some pretty complicated emotions during college involving weight gain, dining hall food and eating far too many cookies. Though food held wonderful memories, like childhood birthday cakes from the local grocer and crispy-thin pizza at our favorite  joint. It became muddled with years of junk food, self-medication and the subsequent shame that it brought. Focusing on food as sustenance and seeking the root problems behind my eating habits has made eating a joyful act again. Which is great, because boy do I love to eat.

Last year, I moved back in with my parents. It was a weird transition after being away at college for four years, made stranger still by the changes we were going through in our lives and diets. More plant-based foods filled our fridge (great!), but our extra-busy schedules of grad school and full-time jobs and 90-minute commutes made it hard to sit down together for dinner (not-so-great).

We worked it out, learning to enjoy tofu with a newly vegan mom, learning to find the healthiest options at Chipotle, and learning to forgive ourselves for occasionally eating Chick-Fil-A twice in one week.  We eat healthful home-cooked meals together when we can, especially on Sundays. And sometimes, I’ll get my moderately cautious parents to branch out with my spicy roasted cauliflower or balsamic strawberries. And you know what? Turns out I’m a pretty darn good cook. 

PHOTO: DAVID NOLES

PHOTO: DAVID NOLES

Krista White recently returned to the Bay Area after graduating from Columbia University, and is more than happy to have a snow-less winter. She is deeply passionate about the issues faced by women of color and how their unique backgrounds interact with the arts and society. To the dismay of those who doubted the utility of her theatre degree, Krista works at performing arts PR firm in Silicon Valley. When she isn't busy sending emails or sitting in the Bay Area's hellish traffic, Krista spends her time writing short plays, reading long-form journalism and planning her next big trip. Krista loves musical theatre, Nora Ephron movies and binge-watching The X-Files. Her daily musings can be found on her blog, where she writes about theatre, travel and the most recent episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @kristanicki.