When you cook for yourself, you have only yourself to please. So you can indulge in a sudden whim. You can choose to make just what you feel like—perhaps only a light, simple supper dish, or a salad if you've consumed a rich meal at lunch that day. There's no need to be a perfectionist, trying to win applause from your guests. If a sauce curdles, you'll eat it anyway. And you learn from your mistakes.

Cooking for yourself is particularly creative because you are inspired by what's in your fridge or freezer or garden or nearby market. You don't have to follow a recipe slavishly; you can substitute as you like. If you are prudent, what you save on food costs will astonish you.

Going home at the end of the day or giving over a quiet Sunday afternoon to cooking—smashing the garlic, chopping an onion, getting all those good cooking smells going, stirring, tasting mindfully, and then adjusting the seasonings—is a comforting form of relaxation, something that is needed in our busy lives. I always love the moment of drama, too, when everything comes together and I quickly dish up my handiwork, arranging it pleasingly on a warm plate, and then take it to the table, where I've set a place for one with a cloth napkin in a family napkin ring. I open up the wine and light the candles, turn on some music, and I give thanks. I wouldn't miss this pleasure for anything.

A Potato Dish for Julia Get the recipes:
Judith Jones' Meals for One

Adapted from The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones, copyright © 2009. To be published in October by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.


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