29/11/2012 10:48 GMT | Updated 29/01/2013 05:12 GMT

How Meals-for-One Are No Laughing Matter


I am, in the words of a former housemate, a 'secret cooker'. This is not, as I initially believed, an illicit and intriguing personality quirk, which only enhances my housemate credentials. It is, apparently, 'insufferably annoying'. 'But you know how to cook,' She pointed out in frustration. 'And yet all you eat is pasta. And often, it's not even your pasta.' I frowned, to show how seriously I was taking these pasta-stealing accusations. 'You make one absurdly fancy dinner a year, and the rest of the time you eat pasta. Why don't you cook?'

Having thought about this for some time, I believe what my friend was actually asking was, 'Why don't you cook for me?' but having been reprimanded by my Mother, my boss and my therapist over my 'poor and immature eating habits', I have really been trying to be better. Last week, I bought actual, un-cooked vegetables. Which sat, lovely and colourfully, in the bottom drawer of my fridge until this weekend, when I noticed they had gone brown and slimy, and was forced to throw them away. 'See?' I said to my little sister, brandishing something which might once have been a bag of rocket. 'This never happens with pasta.'

Cooking for one or two people is expensive, time-consuming and irritating. (Unless you are making pasta, in which case obviously it is a joy). My friend Alex has come up with his own solution: he buys, religiously, 3 Waitrose whole cooked roast chickens. 'They are 3 for 2!' He tells me happily, when I asked why he didn't have anything other than chicken in his fridge. 'And then, with my daily wedge of brie for lunch, I have covered all my food bases. (It would take too long to detail the ensuing conversation, suffice to say that Alex's food pyramid looks almost exactly like what I imagine a young Arnold Schwarznegger's body-building diet consisted of).

My little sister cooks elaborate, delicious-looking meals every night she is home. 'It's easy,' She told me, when I asked how she was doing it. 'Just go to Waitrose, buy the most appetizing, beautiful looking things you can find, and then cook them.' Suitably abashed, I disappeared into my bedroom with my bowl of penne. Just before bed, there was a knock at my door. 'Um,' My little sister began. 'So, I seem to have run into a slight cash-flow problem. Nothing major, it's just I have definitely been spending more than 80% of my income on food. Which has obviously been delicious, but would you be able to cover me for the rent this month?'

Wandering forlornly around Waitrose this week, I noticed that something odd has happened to the 'ready-meal for one' section. Previously the reserve of the spinster and the lonely pervert, it seems that while I was busy cooking pasta, this much maligned product has undergone something of a revival. Michel Roux Jr (him of the 2 Michelin stars and all) has created these odd new boxed meals called 'Scratch'.


Michel has come up with all of the recipes for the Scratch meals - which, I have discovered upon buying one, consist of little individually wrapped compartments with all the raw ingredients you need to cook a meal for one, from 'scratch' in 8 minutes. The meals on offer are rather good too-they range from Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Thai Green Curry to Prawn and Chorizo Paella and Crayfish Noodle Laksa.

I have been eating these Scratch meals happily, ignoring the pitying looks of my jealous housemates, who refuse to believe that anything I eat could possibly be any good- although I did see one of them furtively smell my impossibly good laksa- and only recently have I noticed that hidden in these scratch meals ( is a 'lost truffle', which is of such value to Mr Roux that he is offering a £10,000 reward to whoever finds it.

And, as I pointed out to my jealous flatmates- it is unlikely anyone has such a good chance of winning as I do, seeing as I eat these meals almost every day. I anxiously await a concerned call from the pasta industry- who have probably spent the last two weeks wondering why their stock prices are falling so dramatically.