I just browsed this article by Judith Jones (Julia Child’s editor!) on O, The Oprah Magazine, and I just had to share with you this excerpt [“Party of One” p. 198; October 2009]:

“Cooking for yourself is particularly creative because you are inspired by what’s in your fridge or freezer or garden or nearby market. You don’t have to follow a recipe slavishly; you can substitute if you like. If you are prudent, what you save on food costs will astonish you.”

And this, I particularly loved:

“Going home at the end of the day or giving over a quiet Sunday afternoon to cooking—smashing the garlic, chopping an onion, getting all those good cooking smells going, stirring, tasting mindfully, and then adjusting the seasonings—is a comforting form of relaxation, something that is needed in our busy lives. I always love the moment of drama, too, when everything comes together and I quickly dish up my handiwork, arranging it pleasingly on a warm plate, and then take it to the table, where I’ve set a place for one with a cloth napkin in a family napkin ring. I open up the wine and light the candles, turn on some music, and I give thanks. I wouldn’t miss this pleasure for anything.”

She couldn’t have phrased it better. While living in New York, I shared an apartment with a lovely young couple who were very respectful. I’d spent plenty of time whipping up my own meals, setting the table for myself—complete with stolen cloth napkins from a friend who worked in a restaurant—and savoring a sumptuous meal and quietly enjoying the solitude. I’m sure they’d wondered why I rarely went out; I was either cooped up in my room or tinkering about in the kitchen (or walking to and from the supermarket or laundromat). I chucked all that alone time to my long distance relationship. In the five years I’ve been with my fiancé, half of the time has been spent wielding emails and text messages overseas. At the longest, I didn’t see him for 11 months (never again!).

So you can just imagine how I look forward to finally being in the same zip code as him, and down the line, preparing a meal for two instead of just for me. While it is absolute fun dining alone, a great meal is still best shared with someone you love (who can also help clear the table afterwards).

(Photo by Dana Gallagher courtesy of Oprah.com. Click here or on the photo for original image link.)

UPDATE 09/02/09: My first potato gratin the other day was a salty disaster. Good thing nobody else had tried it except for moi. Today I finally managed to make a good one and I’ve already eaten more than half of it. A formula to remember is this: Use only ONE teaspoon of salt for every five potatoes you use if you’re adding cheese. I put sharp cheddar and a little parmesan in mine, along with crushed garlic, cream, milk, thyme, and parsley; plus plenty of pepper and a dash of sugar to highlight all the savory flavors. Last but not the least, don’t forget the butter!

Potato success!