By Kristy Mucci
2015 was not my best year. I spent most of it confused, sad, heartbroken, and not cooking at all. Last year was turbulent, to say the least, and resulted in some big life changes: I’m no longer married, and I’m living alone (for the first time in eight years).
It took some time to adjust, and now that I’m somewhat back in order, the lack of cooking in my life has become painfully apparent. I’m realizing now that my desire to cook completely disappeared when the ground got shaky. It was easy not to cook in the spring and summer — in those months, all you have to do is cut up produce and call it a meal.
I’ve pretty much been functioning that way until recently.
Now that the Greenmarket has fewer slice-and-eat produce options, and now that it’s finally cold out and I want to eat something warm, I have to get back to cooking. It’s obvious and natural, and you’re probably thinking “Yeah, and?” but after taking a whole year off, I feel completely uncertain in the kitchen. This uncertainty has been wildly confusing: I’m a food person (!), I launched a column on this site called “Kitchen Confidence” (!), I’ve never been afraid to cook anything (!), I’ve cooked a lot of things (!). How do I feel so lost in the kitchen?
In an attempt to jumpstart a new cooking habit, I had some friends over for Thanksgiving. I relished the time I spent fussing over dishes. I was still tidy and organized while I cooked, and the meal was really good (I’m not bragging here, I steamed lobsters, so my menu was basically fail-proof). It felt like a huge triumph, but as soon as the leftovers were gone I went right back to assembling cold ingredients and passing them off as meals.
Popping open tins of sardines and having them with mustard and cornichons, is a fine meal, but it’s not cooking. Throwing leaves and sliced vegetables into a bowl with a squeeze of lemon and an ungraceful pour of olive oil is also not cooking (and maybe more importantly: an unevenly dressed salad isn’t very pleasurable to eat). Cooking requires some attention to detail, a little thought and effort, and the use of heat every once in a while. Those aren’t big requirements, but I have’t felt like bothering to meet them in order to feed just me.
For me, cooking is more fun when there’s another person around, and eating is no fun when I’m home alone. I like putting in the effort when I know I can share the end result with someone, but that’s not possible all of the time, so I have to figure out how to enjoy this cooking for one thing.
I’ve been inspired by cookbooks, and a lot of recipes from Food52, and I’m finally starting to turn my stove on more frequently. The easiest thing for me to start cooking again has been eggs. Specifically . They’re my ultimate comfort food and have helped me through many hard times. I’ve made a morning ritual out of these eggs. I cook them low-and-slow, and force myself to sit down to a civilized breakfast at my table. They feel like a hug, and who doesn’t want that in the morning?
4 large free-range or organic eggs
1 tablespoon mascarpone, creme fraiche, cream, what have you
Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper, plus more for serving
Knob of salted butter
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, salt and pepper. Be thorough, but don’t worry if there are little bits of mascarpone flecking the egg.
Heat a large, non-stick skillet over a medium-low flame. Add the butter and wait until it melts before adding the egg. If the egg starts to cook right away, turn the heat as low as it will go. Using a wooden spatula or spoon, stir the eggs constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan all over in a long, continuous motion. Do this for about 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary (raise it a little if the egg touching the pan isn’t cooking at all; lower it if it starts to cook quickly or look at all dry).
Pull the eggs off the heat when they’re still a little custardy-looking, but not runny – they’ll cook a bit more as you pile them onto your plate. Divide the eggs among two warm plates and serve immediately, with toast if you like, and more ground black pepper.