Cooking For One: The Pleasures of Cooking for One

As part of our ongoing series COOKING FOR ONE, we look at the challenges, advantages, and unique circumstances that people face when cooking by themselves. In this installment, we look at how to deal with grocery shopping for one.

Through out our COOKING FOR ONE series, we’ve talked about a wide range of issues that single cooks face. While not completely exhaustive, the discussion has touched on most of the major themes and problems that people who cook alone can face. It seems appropriate to bookend the series (for now) with a book recommendation.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones. To long-time food readers and home cooks, the name should sound familiar. Jones is the famous editor at the Knopf imprint, who is renowned for he work as the editor for culinary luminaries like James Beard and Julia Child.

This isn’t just another cookbook, and quite admittedly I’m not really a fan of cookbooks, if for no other reason than the Internet is the perfect repository for a million recipes, so having a book of just a few seems little strange. I prefer books that are about cooking and try to push readers to improve and expand their culinary repertoire, which is exactly what The Pleasures of Cooking does.

Reading through her book, you’ll notice that Jones touches on many of the same subjects that we’ve discussed previously. How to take advantage of specialty shops, sales and purchasing ingredients. The social stigma that some feel when cooking alone and why you should see it as an opportunity for experimentation. But, she doesn’t stop there. Included along with these musings are wonderful tips culled from a lifetime of editing and working with some of the finest culinary minds in history.

There are recipes and other handy inclusions like the types of appliances, utensils and ingredients that you should always keep on hand and discussions on how to make basic sauces and stocks – the foundation for a million different dishes.

These recipes and tips serve as an exception to my earlier point, because the recipes here are tailored for single chefs. No need to worry about scaling or ratios as you try to adapt a recipe meant to make 6 servings down to just one or two (because who doesn’t love leftovers?) .

These recipes become instructive in a way. Since the world of cooking and eating seems to be based around food for larger groups, it can often be hard to figure out exactly how much of an ingredient you would need for only one person. Working with Jones’ recipes for a while will acclimate you to this kind of thinking, and going forward you may leave those recipes behind, but retain the knowledge of how ratios and ingredients work at a smaller level.

Through out the book Jones prose fits effortlessly between the recipes, tips and anecdotes. Her discussion about nine different dishes that could come from turkey stock flows just as well as her ruminations about how to get through a work week and feel like you aren’t cheating yourself when it comes to dinner time.

It is an absolutely crime and travesty that I didn’t discover this book, which came out in 2009, sooner. The Pleasures of Cooking for One is available from Amazon as both a hardcover and e-book.

(photo from