These days, one of the only thing that soothes me is cooking an elaborate feast, even if only for one.

Going to the market, I look for what's fresh and what's on sale. I look at the counters and shelves and the piles of fruit and meats and vegetables, dreaming up iterations and variations of beautiful meals past. I gauge how much time I have, how much money I'm willing to spend. I thank This Modern Age as I look up recipes in the aisle of the store, trying not to block the bustle of others in search of their next meal.

When I return, I set my groceries on the counter, put away what will be used later and lay out the raw ingredients for what I hope will be a delicious meal. I mentally calculate how much time it will take to make each dish and proceed accordingly. I wash; I chop; I peel; I season; I saute; I roast; I toast; I grill. While my food is cooking, I tidy up and wash the dirty dishes I've made, just like my mother always taught me. I set the table for one, I pour my drink, I lay out my fork and knife. During the last two minutes of cooking time, I am frenzied with the details, trying to time it all so that everything will be warm and delicious all at the same time.

I serve my portion, and set aside the rest for tomorrow's lunch. With fanfare, I carry my plate to the table, admiring the smells and the way the food looks on the plate; the rich browns, the bright greens, the golden oranges. I cut into the first bite and smile to myself, thinking about all the friends and lovers with whom I would love to share this meal. Instead, I tell them about it over email or through pictures. Sometimes, they come over and I cook for them or we cook together.

Tonight, I have a beautiful pot of short ribs braising in the oven. As they approach their second hour of cooking, a pan of butternut squash sits next to them, roasting with sage. I've just finished trimming the green beans, which will get sauteed with garlic and olive oil once the meat and the squash are near done.  A dear friend is on her way. I look forward to her oohs and ahhs, the groans of delight and satisfaction that I know she'll make when she eats what I've made. I've spent half my day preparing for and cooking this meal, and every short minute that we eat will be worth all the time, the money, and the dishpan hands I've acquired to put this plate on the table.


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