Building a Repertoire to Cook for Yourself

By Stephanie Cameron | Photo by Stacey M. Adams

Kelli Cameron sampling radish sprouts from Logan Romero of Happy Hippies Urban Farm at the Corrales Growers’ Market.

I find catharsis in cooking solo. In my years between high school and marriage, I almost always cooked alone, and spent the majority of those meals dining alone. My roommates were frequently in awe of my ability to shop for a week’s worth of food with twenty dollars, while they spent the same money on two or three fast food meals. I could almost smell their envy as they walked to their rooms with their same old burgers and fries while the aroma of garlic and onions emanated from the kitchen. I loved entertaining and cooking meals for friends, but it was the practice of cooking for myself that made me a good cook. Experimentation, finding what I liked and didn’t like, and enjoying the fruits of my labor when I sat down to savor my creations alone brought me little moments of joy.

In my first years as a wife and a mother, I lost my joy for cooking solo. It all became so chaotic, a race to the finish to get everyone fed—and I was never really alone anymore. Cooking became a team sport with everyone lending a hand to make holiday cookies, birthday cakes, spaghetti, and mac’n cheese. Fascinated by the kitchen, my daughter Kelli, especially, made sure she always got her moment to shine during celebrations: cherry pie for a summer picnic, homemade ice cream for the Fourth of July, and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. But as my children grew older, school, activities, and life didn’t give us a whole lot of everyday opportunities in the kitchen together. Now, nineteen years old and preparing to be on her own, Kelli has expressed that she wants to be ready to fend for herself in the kitchen and not rely on takeout. Using her goal as my inspiration for this issue’s Cooking Fresh, we set off for the farmers markets with a new lens—what didn’t Kelli know how to cook and how could we build her repertoire? What should every beginner cook master?

As Kelli discovered radishes, kohlrabi, pea shoots, sprouts, mushrooms, pork, chicken, and more, we built a list of things she would like to cook for herself. We had discussions about how to buy ingredients and maximize them, food waste, and how learning some simple techniques could open up opportunities to try new things. Below are the building blocks for her—or anyone—to cook solo.


Note: Recipes can be found online, here.

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