When you live with others and attempting to put together a dinner for friends and/or family – even if it’s just you and your pre-adolescent children – one of the considerations – perhaps even 75 percent of the consideration – is presentation.
You know, trying to throw together a bunch of tasty calories, but making it look like Martha Stewart whispered directions in your ear out in the kitchen. The foods should be of complementary colors (mashed Russet potatoes, lima beans, and salmon – the kind of colors you might use to paint your dining room). These foods will NOT touch each other on the plate. Anything dripped on the edge of the plate gets wiped off with a cloth towel in the kitchen.
Place mat edges parallel with the table’s edge. Matching napkins folded in whimsical fashion. Flatware arranged according to Emily Post. Beverages placed at the corner of the place mat. Condiments within easy reach. Flowers or other nice centerpiece positioned so as to not block anyone’s view.
Everyone around the table oohs and aahs over the presentation, and they should because it is so goddamn pretty.
For about a year after I began to live alone, I followed the rules ingrained in my cerebral cortex by the ex. Rice with soy sauce, green beans, sautéed chicken breast. Each had its own place on the plate.
And then: why the fuck am I worried about how nice my dinner looks? No one else is watching. No one is offering me praise. No oohs and no aahs.
This is how the concept of dinner in a bowl was born. You still make the effort on cooking delicious and nutritious food. However, when it is ready, you just throw it all in a bowl.
No placemats. No folded napkins. No flatware – just a big spoon. Drink your beverage out of the bottle or can. Since you are cooking just for yourself, you put the condiments in the food while you are standing over the stove. No centerpieces because you are probably going to eat dinner on the front stoop, the porch, or planted in front of your computer.
You’d be surprised how totally satisfying dinner in a bowl can be.