Somebody’s gotta do it.
February 9, 2019. I started doing it ten years ago because I wanted to eat well at home. For a lot less money than it costs to eat well at good restaurants here in New York. Raise my standard of living, lower my cost of living. Good reason to learn to cook at the age of 60.
I’ve been hearing about another reason lately, in emails. A profoundly compelling reason. More and more of you older guys are thinking about cooking because, well, there might not be somebody else to feed you. Right now. Or in the imaginable future.
“I am only beginning to learn to cook; my wife is an excellent one and so I’ve never made any effort to learn until the past few years since we retired. It became clear to me the need to learn enough about cooking to learn to survive at home, in the unfortunate event that I become her caretaker or a widower.”
Now there’s a truly thoughtful guy who really plans ahead.
If you’re a male Baby Boomer like him or like me, you probably didn’t learn to cook when you were growing up. In school, I think it was sixth grade, boys took Wood Shop and girls took Home Economics. I didn’t become a carpenter. But I’m still eating. Learning to cook in Home Ec would’ve been a lot more useful. Especially in my case because Kathy must have skipped that class.
So I’ve been learning to cook for both of us. I’ll turn 70 in a few months and I feel pretty good about feeding us for a while. If the kitchen is uncharted territory for you like it was for me, let me share some things I’ve learned.
Get over yourself. Of course you can do this. Just read the instructions.
Whenever I ate something great at a restaurant, I’d think, better not try this at home by myself. I had no training, no kitchen skills, no knowledge. Even the basket of bread on the table seemed unachievable. Until one day when I thought, hey, humans have been making bread for thousands of years. Before gas and electric ovens. Before food processors. How hard could this be?
So at the age of 60, I bought my first bag of flour. And Jim Lahey’s great book, My Bread. It promised crusty, chewy artisanal bread at home – without kneading. The no-kneading hooked me. Because I didn’t know how to knead dough. I had no idea. If you took Home Ec, you’re laughing. If you took Wood Shop, you can relate. The happy ending: I make a great crusty, chewy bread every week or two.
I was so amazed how good and how easy this basic flour + water thing is that I moved on to pizza. It’s like a magic trick. Without going to magician’s school. I make a batch of pizza dough at least once a week. You can’t live by bread alone so you get to put your favorite healthy things on top. This is a Better Way to eat. Cheaper, too. $2 – $3 for a whole pizza right out of the oven instead of a soggy $10 pizza in a cardboard box.
One thing leads to another.
Once I used my oven for something other than storage, I was ready for my next kitchen revelation. Roasting a chicken. For the first time in my life, I bought a whole, uncooked chicken. After figuring out which side was up – and this is not immediately obvious if you’ve never seen one of these things before – I was a little grossed out by the prospect of inserting slivers of garlic under the dead bird’s skin and stuffing its body cavity with fresh herbs.
But if you’d like a crisp, golden brown and garlic-scented chicken skin, I’m here to tell you it’s pretty easy. Even my first try turned out OK. In my 72-square foot New York kitchen. All you really need is a very hot oven (500° F) and the willingness to get intimate with a raw chicken. By the second or third time, you’re an expert. A complete meal made in one pan and served on one platter. Garlic & Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables.
Stick with me. A New Way Every Day. I promise I’ll only tell you about the cheap, easy and delicious ones. And the ones that are a personal pleasure to make. By yourself. Or with a Significant Other. Eat well.
Cooking for one
“The proportion of midlife Americans (aged 45-63) that are unmarried has increased by more than 50% since 1980. Today, one in three baby boomers is unmarried. The vast majority of these unmarried boomers are either divorced or never-married; just 10% are widowed. As boomers move into older adulthood, the unmarried share will grow as married boomers continue to experience divorce and widowhood.” Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait, to be published later this year in The Gerontologist
Let’s Do The Math
There are about 80 million Baby Boomers. A third are unmarried. That’s about 25 million. This number’s expected to grow by a million or two every year. So you might know somebody who’s cooking alone for the first time. Somebody who might appreciate a Better Cheaper Slower Gift Certificate.