John was a fantastic cook and he just got better as the years went on. In the very beginning, I would try to help out in the kitchen, but he didn’t really appreciate it and I found it boring. He made every meal for me—breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks—all of it. If he was out of town, or if he would be late, he would call and dictate exactly how to prepare something for me to eat until he could get home to do it for me. He did all the planning, shopping and preparation. The kitchen was his kingdom and he reigned with an iron skillet. We were sweethearts since I was 24, therefore I simply forgot—or never learned—how to prepare any kind of food on my own. Even during our separation, he would call me or come over to be sure I had enough to eat and that it was good food. I had to look up how to scramble eggs in his “Julia Child’s Way To Cook” book. I was, in a word, spoiled. Rotten.

Shortly after his death, I stood in front of the refrigerator, staring at the empty shelves and actually found myself thinking: Why didn’t he leave me anything to eat? The selfish bastard… didn’t he think ahead?

So I have had to learn to cook. I have two advantages, one being that I was used to having good, healthy food which kept me from heading to the KFC every night. And I would putter along after John in the grocery store so I learned good patterns of shopping: buy fresh, buy local, buy what’s seasonally available. That all provides for a good start.

I started a 30-minute-supper club to which I invited friends who could cook to come over and prepare a meal together. The rules were:

  • all dishes had to be easy with simple ingredients and no fancy cook’s tricks
  • all dishes had to be prepared within 30 minutes or less, something you’d do after work on a long day
  • you had to bring your recipe with enough copies for everyone
  • they had to be tasty!

I’d invite enough people to get a main dish, side dish, salad and dessert. I would provide wine & other beverages, sparkling conversation and the kitchen/dining room. I’d gather all the recipes together for everyone to take home and each person would show me how their dish was put together.

The dinners have been very fun and absolutely useful. I use T’s salad dressing regularly, have made Teacher Tuna Time (Surviving the First Year) for guests and myself, and RJF’s pork tenderloin whenever I find it on sale. And it gave me a way to gather with friends and have fun. It’s been a while since the last one, I’ll have to schedule one again soon.

My menu is still fairly limited. I can make broiled salmon, broiled chicken breasts, broccoli, green salad, grilled steak, cauliflower, pork tenderloin, roasted red potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes & mozzarella. That’s about the extent of it. But you can go a long way on that. And it all makes great leftovers. Plus, I eat fruit like a jungle animal. I will eat fruit of any kind any time.

All that healthy stuff aside, I will also have a dinner of freshly popped popcorn and a bottle of wine. And make Jello for dessert. Or eat breakfast cereal for dinner. In bed watching TV with the dogs. What’s the point of being single if I can’t do all that.

John would be horrified at the thought.