My dear friend's six-year-old daughter was spending the evening with me for one of our "cooking classes." Once every couple of months, Clara comes to my house with her apron my mom made for her, a step stool to stand on, and the desire for an evening away from "the monsters," her term of affection for her brothers.
It was my little cup full of corncob holders she had her eye on. I pulled one out.
"These are to stick into the end of an ear of corn so you can eat it easier," I said, demonstrating.
"Oh, but why do you have so many?" she asked. "There's only one of you."
"Well, that's true, there is only one of me," I said, "but sometimes I like to have people over to eat with me. Like you."
What Clara didn't realize was that her practical question about cooking for one was something I had been thinking about myself a lot lately. Because I enjoy being in the kitchen, chopping, sauteing, baking, I have never minded going to the trouble for "just me." Besides, I like leftovers.
But whether or not it's too much trouble to cook for one, the idea of eating alone is more difficult. Food is not just a source of nourishment; it's a conversation starter, a way of life, a political statement, a form of entertainment, a hobby, a spiritual landmark. When I eat alone, there's no one to talk to about it, no one to take home leftovers or swap recipes with, no one to sit lazily with long after the food is gone sharing memories of past meals or dreams of future ones.
So while Clara was here, making pancakes and bacon with me for "Breakfast Night," as she dubbed it, I resolved again to quit eating alone so often. Just because I am single doesn't mean I can't share more of my meals with others. It may take more time to invite people over, but if I had a family it would be an easy decision to make meal time a priority.
And eating with others doesn't mean special shopping lists or fancy napkins. It means inviting someone to my home, even if she's only six, and eating pancakes together.
If you find yourself eating alone a little too often, invite a friend, or even your husband and kids if it's been a while since you sat at the table together, and enjoy some pancakes. Here's my favorite pancake recipe from my well-worn Pillsbury Cookbook.
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat griddle to medium-high heat. In large bowl, beat eggs; stir in buttermilk and oil. Add remaining ingredients; stir just until large lumps disappear. For thicker pancakes, thicken with additional flour; for thinner pancakes, thin with additional milk. Lightly grease heated griddle. A few drops of water sprinkled on griddle sizzle and bounce when heat is just right. Pour batter, about 1/4 cup at a time, onto hot griddle. Bake until bubbles form and edges start to dry; turn and bake other side. (I like to add blueberries or chocolate chips, too!)