I've already documented the first piece of evidence that made me start to realize that some people seem to find it, well, incomprehensible that single folks might actually enjoy cooking for themselves. It's in the first few lines of my cookbook and in the excerpt that ran in The Washington Post's Food section in March:
In all fairness to the person who posted that on FB, though, I don't think she meant it to come across as condescending. In fact, she's been in touch since the book came out, expressing dismay that I took offense and assuring me that she was merely playing yenta, since she also was trying connect me to a friend she thought I might hit it off with (an assessment with which I disagreed).It was a Facebook comment that finally did it.
I had just posted a link to one of my Cooking for One columns, and amid the chatter about the recipes for mulled red-wine syrup and salmon braised in pinot noir, I got this: “At the risk of getting too personal, perhaps you might find someone to share life/meals with. That would kill your column concept, but could change your life in a positive way. The pleasures of the table are so satisfying when shared.”
I don't mean to be thin-skinned about all this, but evidence of people's prejudices about single folks has been piling up. Several months back, a ripple of guffaws went around cyberspace after someone Tweeted a link to what they called the most depressing cookbook ever: "Microwave Cooking for One" by Marie T. Smith. And granted, there's more than a good bit of unintended kitsch at work with this 1986 book, whose cover shows Smith smiling behind a huge pile of dishes, many of them practically spilling out of a microwave. But the microwave is only part of the joke here, isn't it? The punch line is that CF1 is pathetic.
Last November, months before "Serve Yourself" was on the shelves, I did a double-take (and a quick rewind) while watching "30 Rock," when Liz Lemon tells someone on the phone, "I was going to take this class, 'Cooking for One,' but the teacher killed himself." Note to Tina Fey: Be on the lookout for a copy of my book; we're trying to get one on your desk.
And then just the other day, when Epicurious issued this Tweet to link to Esther Sung's blog post about the interview with me -- "Recipes with a serving for one @joeyonan http://epi.us/eclGBk" -- some of the re-tweets played up the loneliest-number thing:
- "This seems like rubbing it in.
- "For those with no friends out there this is for you!"
- "depressing, but helpful!"
- "Nah. You gotta eat, gotta cook!"
- "Lovely that you always have company (I guess), but many who have lots of friends (& even partners) have nights alone."
- "Not depressing -- meditative, even fun!"
When I went to my agent Lisa Ekus's home in western Massachusetts earlier this year for a day of media training, she very smartly tried to trip me up when we role-played a TV host interviewing me while I demo'd a dish. She picked an angle she knew I might be sensitive about, and asked, "Don't you ever get lonely?" I paused for a beat and then said: "You know, Lisa, I have such an active social life and interact with so many people through the course of my job that some nights, it's so great to just come home, turn on the radio, and enjoy the process of making a meal, to focus on just me."
I meant it. Because if you can't fathom the idea of being single and happy, well, cooking is probably the least of your worries. I'm so glad I don't see things that way.