The Cookbook for Cooking Alone: It is Possibleby Surmayee Tetarbe on Jun, 18 2012
The first time I tried to cook on my own in my apartment, I almost burnt the place down. No, I’m not exaggerating, things actually caught on fire.
There I was innocently frying my bacon (without turning the exhaust on or opening the windows) and my fire alarm went off. At that point, I did the most reasonable thing I could: screamed, flipped out, grabbed a towel and started waving it frantically below my fire alarm. After thirty horrific seconds, it shut off and I turned back to my stove, only to find that in my panic, I’d forgotten to turn the stove off, my bacon was burnt and the paper towel I’d kept to wipe off some of the grease was now on fire.
Needless to say, I didn’t fry bacon alone at home for a long time after that. (Don’t worry my apartment is still intact)
If there’s something I learned from the first time cooking in my apartment, it was that a little preparation goes a long, long way. If you’re moving into an apartment or a house this year that will require you to cook for yourself, or if you just want to learn how to survive in this big, bad world, here are some basics that you really should have down before you begin. (No, asking your parents for help is not a sign of weakness).
- Chopping vegetables: Shocker, right? Who knew that knowing how to dice an onion or slice up some mushrooms would make cooking easier? In all seriousness, learn how to do this in a quick, efficient manner so that you have less of a mess to clean and so your food doesn’t taste totally bland.
- Basic pasta (sauce is optional): You’d be surprised at the number of your friends who don’t know how to cook pasta. It’s a useful skill to have, and definitely one of the foundations of cooking for yourself. Buy some sauce from Safeway or Trader Joe’s and add it to your freshly boiled pasta (that doesn’t clump together because you left it too long or washed it under cold water) and voila, you have a perfect meal ready to go. There are a million simple recipes online for you to learn how to make a basic sauce – if you want to be adventurous! One click and you’ll be well on your way to achieving Masterchef status.
- Mac and Cheese: And not the Kraft kind. Although it tastes good the first few times, eventually that unnatural orange color is going to get to you. Mac and cheese from scratch isn’t actually that hard to make, and tastes a loooot better than anything store bought, I promise.
- Frying sausages/bacon: Believe me, you want to learn this beforehand. I don’t think I need to explain my reasoning after my unfortunate fire alarm story, but this is a very useful skill to have for those mornings where toast and cereal just wont do.
- Boiled/soft boiled/fried eggs: My brother once called my mother at 3 in the morning our time (yay, time difference!) to ask how long to keep an egg in boiling water so that it would come out soft boiled (about 4-5 minutes, just for the record). When you cant be bothered to cook up a gourmet dish for lunch, a boiled egg or two can make a good substantial alternative!
- Some kind of curry: No, I’m not being partial to the curries because I come from India, they just go really well with some rice! Get some Thai green curry paste or Tikka Masala powder, fry up some veggies or chicken (virtually the easiest meat to cook) and toss everything together. Give it a few minutes and suddenly you don’t have to make a Thai Basil run late at night anymore!
- Pancakes: Who doesn’t love pancakes? Personally, I love the Aunt Jemima pancake mix because mine always turn out the best with it, but if you want to be brave and try making pancakes from scratch, the perfect recipe for you is out there!
These are just some of the basic skills and recipes I wish I’d known before I’d moved into my apartment. Maybe it’s too basic for you, or maybe it’s not basic enough. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after eating too much ramen for too long (let’s face it, anyone with half a brain can pour hot water into a noodle bowl), it’s that home cooked food somehow always tastes better. Well, it does after the first few times you cook. I never thought I’d be able to make a full fledged meal by myself, I couldn’t even dice a mushroom properly when I first started. But with my roommates help (and my mother on Skype), we’ve progressed from making basic pasta to cooking crepes, lasagna, and chicken curry from scratch (no ready-made powders required!). Seriously, there are a ton of recipes on the internet, from basic to gourmet meals. Quick suggestion: Google recipes and you’ll find a vast ocean of websites dedicated to all kind of foods. Give it a shot, you may even surprise yourself!
Or worst comes to worst, you’ll give your roommate food poisoning and have a legitimate excuse for eating out every night, buuuut… let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.