When cooking for two became my new battlefield

cooking for two - hamburgers

Cooking for two – or twenty or more – didn’t faze me. I loved making meals. I also enjoyed baking; barbecuing; making jam and generally playing with food and creating in the kitchen. Then, everything changed.

Mealtimes come round with increasing monotony. And, dare I say it, with increasing stress. My world has shrunk a bit more, because eating (and cooking!) should be among life’s pleasures that last into old age. This much-loved hobby has no place in my current life.

My husband enjoyed my cooking. But as his health deteriorated, so, too, did his appetite. He’s more conscious of what he can and can’t eat. Sometimes his short and long term preferences change. And sometimes he enjoys a hearty, old-fashioned meal, or eating out in a restaurant.

Eating well-balanced, healthy meals keeps people well. They are especially important for older people, who need sound nutrition for their physical health, immune systems and possibly for their mental health.

John’s ideas about nutrition frequently clash with mine. What he likes (and can tolerate) alters week-by-week. Or perhaps it’s month-by-month. But in either case, far too often for me to keep up. My problem rests with not knowing what will happen each day. Making decisions about meals no longer gives me joy.

There are no guidelines to deal with the problem. The nearest I came, Food fads for picky eaters talks about young children, not older people.

I’m no longer sure of myself in my kitchen, a place where once I felt eminently comfortable.

Why cooking for two has become so difficult

COVID-19 has affected all our lives in large and small ways. Maybe it’s the small ways that affect us worse. For example, before the pandemic, John and I invited people for meals. I enjoyed cooking and have a reasosnable repertoire of recipes, with a preference for Mediterranean and especially southern French meals.

As well as that, I baked biscuits and slices and cakes with abandon. I knew that if John didn’t eat them, my darling grandchildren and great-grandies would. There were always goodies in the house. I felt fulfilled.

John no longer wants the cakes or cookies or puddings I once made, but prefers to eat one or two selections of bought biscuits that come in commercial packets.

I followed cooking shows on television. Experimented. Cooking with a succession of younger generations gave me great pleasure. Joy, even. Four generations together in my kitchen making Christmas puddings has been a source of fun for decades. My favourite tradition.

Great-granddaughters Elizabeth and Alexandra cooking with me a few years ago

Then came COVID. We became wary of strangers. We even felt nervous around our own people. In an abundance of caution, because of our increasing age an especially John’s immunocompromised situation, visitors come less often. With Omnicron affecting so many school aged children, I see little of the kids in my life.

One more chore

Cooking for two has become my modus operandi. I’ve culled most of the recipe books, my cooking notebooks and scraps of paper. The books went better homes where they may be loved and useful. I never owned recipe cards. The scraps of paper … gone.

Instead of shopping with enthusiasm and cooking with joy, I have one more chore.

I like food and need variety in my meals as much as I need it in all the other parts of my life. John’s ‘diet’ does not inspire or please me.

Talking with other people about cooking for two

Talking with others I discovered that cooking in our old age makes most of us tired. Many women have taken the primary responsibility for meals for up to sixty or seventy years. We’ve run out of ideas and steam. We no longer care all that much what we eat ourselves. The simpler the better, I suspect, for most of us, as long as what we eat is good for us.

Talking with others gave me new ideas, new hope, when I’m not willing to abandon the responsibility For mealtimes altogether. Thank you, especially, to Elizabeth Worts and Susan H.

Some possible solutions

My problem solving skills went into overdrive. I came up with this list with a help from my friends.

  • Insist on going out for meals more often. so that choices can be made from someone else’s menu
  • Accept all invitations.
  • On the days you eat away from home, don’t prepare another meal.
  • Buy takeaways or order prepared meals in more often. This feels outside my comfort zone and needs work. Fish and chips were the only takeaways people of my generation knew as kids. We have to learn modern ways. Think Uber Eats.
  • Make one ‘proper’ a meal a day. Toast with peanut butter and an apple are fine for the other.
  • Keep cooking simple. The time for cordon bleu has passed.
  • Cook double. Freeze leftovers for next week.
  • Use commercial simmer and other sauces. Spend less time cooking from ‘scratch’.
  • Browse the aisles in grocery stores. Even Coles and Woolworths have pre-cooked meals. They’re mostly nutritious and well-balanced. Have a choice of these in the freezer for ‘difficult days’.
  • Some enterprising companies deliver healthy, attractive meals regularly to people who can no longer cook.
  • Ask friends for cheat methods for cooking simple, nutritious easy meals.
  • Remember that when all else fails, your fall back position can be Meals on Wheels!
  • Occasionally, cook things you love. Making two separate meals may seem like ridiculous behaviour for an old person, but it’s a way to satisfy your own needs.
  • Take care of your own health and nutrition.

Please feel free to share your suggestions for making life easier when cooking for two. I love comments on my blog.

Inspiration for this blog

Recipe Cards was chosen last week as a word prompt challenge by my friends, bloggers SueW from Yorkshire and her blogging partner, GC from Canada. I’ve gone a bit off track, but thank you both for the inspiration. Please click on their names if you would like to read entertaining posts with wonderful pictures.

Copyright, Maureen Helen 2022

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