Confessions of Eating Alone: Mushrooms & Oatmeal

“Cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone.  A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam”

(extract from book “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant”)


I like eating, and I like food. I like going to newly opened restaurants and trying out new dishes. Even cooking (sometimes). But always when there is  company.

I had great expectations of myself before I went to Sydney in 2008. I was going to turn into some kind of Nigella Lawson meets Jamie Oliver person, poking at all the fresh produce in Australia, preparing healthy, tasty meals for one.

But being alone and faced with the prospect of needing to feed myself, I became a creature of habit. I could eat the same thing day after day, night after night.

My kitchenette in my little loft in Sydney had only a microwave, a sink and a little bar fridge. The real (shared) kitchen complete with stove was 50 steps away, and was gross most times (that’s the way with communal living with 50 people to a kitchen).

Cooking meant that you had to balance and carry all crockery, utensils, seasoning, and ingredients to the shared kitchen. It takes planning (do I need pepper with that?), and some good balancing skills.

So lazy people like me prepare one-dish meals, i.e. cutting/slicing/marinating all the ingredients in my little kitchenette, throwing them into a frying pan, pour in some(olive) oil, and carrying only said frying pan and a spatula into the kitchen. If you forgot to add salt into the pan before the trip to the kitchen, so be it. The dish will just be salt-less for that day. No crockery involved either, you eat the food straight out from the pan.

Usually, the one-dish will be pan-fried mushrooms, or an omelette, served with an accompaniment of micro-waved cooked rice (10 minutes high-heat and 2 mins of low heat). Or if I was feeling particularly ambitious, it will be pasta, served aglio-olio with an accompaniment of mushrooms.

The prospect of cooking for oneself dimmed even more as the semester went on, particularly nearing the exams. I remembered that there were (way too many) occasions where breakfast, lunch, dinner consisted of a mixture of micro-waved oatmeal, milk and honey.

Or buying (tons of) sushi rolls from the mall and micro-waving them (yes, somehow, micro-waved tuna sushi roll tastes good).

I ate them at my messy desk, in front of my laptop. Simple (and weird) as these meals might be, they were sustenance, through the times when I needed to be alone with my thoughts and my essays.


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