Today, I did the groceries for the first time since Marco and I broke up. As I stared blankly at the frozen meats section, wondering where the fuck the chicken is, I realized two startling facts. The first was that I have never done the groceries without Marco, because he liked to cook and I didn’t, and so I let him do the actual groceries while I wandered around waiting for him to finish, completely indifferent to the food products screaming for my attention.
The second thing I realized is that of all the things I have done alone since then, being at the supermarket by myself made me the saddest I’d ever been since the last meal we had together.
I take no pleasure in cooking and feeding myself, and it’s not for a lack of trying. When I moved out, I was determined to be a proper grown-up and make myself some decent food. I took a cooking class, got tips from my ever helpful Tita Lorna while she was in town, even tried a hand at making stuff up in the kitchen. I can cook if I really want to and I’m not bad at it, but grabbing an apple from the fridge and calling it dinner quiets the rumbling in my tummy in the same way a dish that took me an hour to prepare does.
I’m going to be honest and admit that the most satisfying dinner I have made for myself in the last three weeks was a cup of spicy yakisoba – the kind that you just add hot water to! – washed down with three cans of beer.
It might have been a mistake to let Marco move in with me soon after getting my apartment. (Sorry mom, sorry dad.) I stopped trying to make dinner for myself because he loved making food happen, and I believe in letting people do what they do best. He worked from home on Mondays, so Marco Cooks Monday became a thing. My week would start with a new and delicious surprise on the dining table after work, because he’d secretly spend the afternoon experimenting in the kitchen when he should have been writing press releases.
One day I invited a long-lost friend over for dinner, and in my excitement, ended up extending the invitation to two other mutual friends. Marco panicked a little when I told him about how many guests we were really having, but dinner turned out to be a smashing success. He created this beautiful chicken breast covered in a sauce made of chopped apples, apple cider vinegar, brewed coffee, and brown sugar. This he served with a side of rosemary potatoes seasoned with actual rosemary.
My friends and I were completely blown away, especially when he explained how it took him 3 hours to make the sauce from scratch because he couldn’t find the right balance of flavors. Who makes a sauce from scratch, without the help of a recipe or cooking show? Who thinks of using fresh herbs? The apartment smelled like rosemary for days.
The one time I made dinner for us, I was cranky from work and resentful of the fact that it was my turn to man the kitchen. I was being a real bitch too – slamming stuff around, snapping at him for stupid little things, and giving him the silent treatment whenever he’d try to talk to me.
The really funny thing is that the meal I was making wasn’t complicated at all; it was an easy baked sinigang fish recipe my Tita Lorna taught me. Cover a cream dory fillet in sinigang mix and cook it in foil with some chopped onions and tomatoes. As the fish bakes in the pan, the water from the tomatoes drip out, mixing with the sinigang powder and creating a nice little soup at the bottom. The whole thing takes no longer than 15 minutes to make and doesn’t require a nasty attitude.
But because I was so annoyed and irritable that evening, I stomped into the bedroom after putting the fish in the pan, changed out of my clothes, and took a nap. I figured that Marco would make sure that the fish and the entire apartment wouldn’t burn down. When I woke up from my nap, my mood hadn’t improved and I was still feeling kind of mean. I sat at the dining table and silently poked at my Sinigang Fish of Resentment, refusing to look at Marco who was waiting for me to speak.
Finally, he went over to my side of the table, took my hand, and said gently, “You don’t have to make dinner if you don’t want to. Just tell me and I’ll do it.”
Sitting alone in my apartment now, I feel a crushing sadness and guilt for taking those meals for granted, and for being an awful girlfriend in general – constantly starting fights over stupid shit, never having the patience to cut him some slack, and always putting my needs before his.
I make my own dinners these days, if I even eat at all. Dinner is usually pre-marinated chicken thigh from the supermarket, or a bowl of monggo flavored with Vietnamese bullion cubes when I feel like being “healthy”. The most creative I got in the kitchen was to make an even lazier version of Marco’s Lazy Fish (cream dory, capers, olives) – swap out the cream dory for a can of tuna chunks in water.
The other day, I was catching up with a friend who’s been a bachelor the entire seven years I’ve known him. He told me about his new loft apartment, the sick view he has of the Ortigas skyline, and how you literally have to crawl over the king-sized bed to reach the bathroom because the loft only has enough space for a twin bed. I really want to see it, I said. And he said, “Sure, come over! But I warn you, there is literally nothing in my fridge except beer. Oh wait, I don’t like beer. So maybe not even that.”
Now I totally get why empty refrigerators in one-person apartments make sense, and why doing the groceries alone is one of the loneliest things you can do. It’s a pointless exercise to go out, buy raw ingredients, and make a coherent dish out of these things, just to calm your stomach acids. You can always get an apple for that.
For the most part, I have been doing great since Marco and I parted ways. I tell my friends that it was a mutual decision, that I’ve never felt so alive and how for the first time in years, life is suddenly filled with so many possibilities. I really do mean it. But I guess there’s still a tiny part of me inside that hasn’t stopped mourning for a relationship that didn’t quite work out, the part that could still taste flavors and enjoy the simple pleasures of food.Google+