To mark the first birthday of the 'How to eat alone' podcast, host Julia Georgallis has a little check in about how she's feeling about moving into her first home alone, horrible eating habits that she's picked up over the last 18 months and directions for next podcast episodes. Comes with a recipe for Julia's favourite solo dish.
Transcript - little monologue by Julia Georgallis
Hello, welcome to the How to eat alone podcast, with me, Julia Georgallis. I’m a baker and I write about food. This is a podcast that looks at the art of eating alone and explores topics surrounding loneliness and aloneness which are not necessarily the same thing. Over the last 10 episodes, I’ve been talking to people from all walks of life about their own experiences of solitude and solo dining. With each episode, I’ve shared a recipe designed to be cooked and eaten by one person and one person only, because, let’s face it, most recipes are written for two or more people.
Earlier this month on the 4th May, ‘How to eat alone’ turned 1 years old. Happy birthday to us! This podcast began as a continuation of a lockdown project where I put together recipes for one and posted them on social media, partly because I was fed up of ordering takeaways and making too much food for myself over that first lockdown when I was isolating alone, but also partly because I was trying to celebrate being The Professional Single Person that I’ve always been.
So far, I have managed to rustle up 10 episodes, this is the 11th, and I’ve been cooking these episodes pretty slowly, I’ve spent the last year kind of dawdling with this podcast, I haven’t been very regular with recording, I make episodes when I can and I’ve just been seeing where it goes really, quite tentatively, having conversations about all aspects of loneliness and solitude, not just cooking - I’ve spoken to psychotherapists and psychologists, cheese enthusiasts and mountain guides, nannies and bakers. So there’s been really a kind of a diverse bunch of subjects including trying to get to the root of what exactly loneliness is and then, at the same time, I’ve also ended up with a bunch of really great recipes which I hope you’ve enjoyed cooking from.
But behind the scenes this past year has been really busy for me, it’s been full of really big changes and big challenges and I wanted to share how this has made me feel. One of these enormous life changes is that in December 2020, I inherited my very own house. It’s the first house I’ve ever owned, I wasn’t necessarily in a position to buy or looking to buy really to buy it just happened and I feel really lucky. It took me a few months to figure out what to do with the space, it needed a total renovation and while I was figuring that out, I didn’t actually have anywhere solid to live - I haven’t really had a permanent home since September 2020 - I put my stuff in storage and I’ve moved house 12 times since then. So in September 2020, I moved from my rented apartment in Lisbon to my mum’s house in suburban North London. In January 2021, I moved into my dad’s empty apartment for 2 months, then I moved back to my mum's for a month or so before heading back to Lisbon. I spent 4 and half months in Lisbon and when I was there, I lived in 4 different rental apartments. Then I moved back to London in October 2021, back in with my mum for a couple of weeks, moved into my friend’s spare room in East London for 3 months until February 2022, then again I moved back in with my mum for another month because the refurbishment was taking a bit longer than expected so, my dog and I finally moved into our new home March 2022 this year my dog. That’s a lot, right, that’s a lot to take in isn’t it? It’s been really disorientating, I’ve had real wobbly chair syndrome, especially because I haven’t had a solid kitchen to cook in, in a way that’s been one of the most difficult things. So to finally land that isn’t going to be taken away from me and I’m not going to have to move out of anytime soon is really nourishing.
But moving has also brought about some feelings that have caught me off guard - you know, I have some confessions to make about the fact that I’ve been feeling bad actually about moving into a house alone - which is outrageous because it invalidates the last year of making this podcast, but I have to be honest now and I wanted to share that.
Next month, I’ll turn 34, I’m about to enter my mid thirties! Everywhere I’ve lived so far since I left home at 18 has been temporary and I always thought that when the time comes for me to be a home owner, I would do that with a partner or a boyfriend… but I’ve never even lived with a boyfriend before let alone spoken about buying a home with someone that I was in a relationship with and this doesn’t bother me and I’m very clear in my mind that it truly, truly doesn’t bother me but there’s something that is taking up part of my brain that I guess has been left there by society, right I that’s who's put that there, that does make me question why I’m not in a romantic relationship and why I’m not on the same timeline as a lot of other people in their mid thirties. And I can’t deny that it does make me feel a bit bad about myself. This has been a bit compacted by the way people have responded to me as a single woman refurbishing a house on her own. I project managed the refurb myself, I didn’t work with a big company or an architect, I managed a team of contractors on my own and, you know, I had a couple of contractors and suppliers who were shocked that it was just little old me doing up a big ol’ house by myself - I had one guy even, who I didn’t work with I should point that out, after I explained what my project was and what I needed from him, he asked whether he could ‘speak to my husband’ and I had another salesman ask ‘whether he needed to confirm my order with anyone else’ aka my non existent husband so I dealt with a little bit of that. And I’ve also had older aunties and family friends, because I am from a conservative, kind of old school community, and I had those people raising eyebrows at me really at the thought of me moving into a family house without a family. Like I said, I am really happy alone, I genuinely know that I am really fulfilled but I think those responses from people get caught in the washing machine my inner monologue, even if I am super excited and really grateful about my new life in my new home, they’re there, they’re stuck there!
It’s not just from an older more traditional generation or industry either that I get that kind of response - the other day, I was at work, I’m freelancing as a chef at the moment part time, and I was talking to some of my other colleagues, a small group of 20 something year old girls and when I told them I lived by myself, I did get a little bit of surprise from them. Not in a bad way, actually we had a really lovely conversation about living on your own, but I think it just wasn’t what they expected me to say. And I kind of understand it, when I was 24 I didn’t think that, 10 years later, I’d still be single, unmarried and without children, let alone moving into a house with my dog and my plants on my own. It was not what I intended for myself as a younger person. And sometimes it can be hard to let those expectations you might have had in the past go.
But I’m here now. And it’s lovely. Even if it’s not where I thought I’d end up, it’s great! And after months and months of not having my own space and relying on other people to house me and not knowing what my next steps are and where I’m going to be sleeping in the months to come, I am alone at last and it is peaceful and even though I am on my own, for the first time in a really long time I actually feel very complete.
I know that over the last 10 episodes I am always trying to be upbeat and talk about how wonderful being alone can be, but sometimes it’s really scary and I still get really sad about it and I just think to myself - well is this it? Am I gonna be alone forever? And then I wake up and I realise I made a podcast of how bullshit that train of thought is - I also just realise if I, a person who has literally spent the last 12 months making this podcast can still feel bad about being alone sometimes, then there’s work to do and there’s more conversations to be had and it’s encouraged me to keep going to to explore it to celebrate it but also to kind of recognise that there’s another side of it and that maybe I shouldn’t necessarily always be celebratory - there is also time to lament and discuss the bad parts of it as well which perhaps I haven’t done enough.
So this topic over the last year has thrown up a whole bunch of contradictory feelings and these two main contradictory feelings are these - as I get older, I realise that I need my own space but contrarily, I also really crave companionship. I think a lot of people feel like that too. I think it’s the dichotomy of human nature, you know this need to be loved and included and the need to be independent and free.
I recently started having therapy again and I told my therapist this - I told him how torn I was that I was both thrilled and terrified of being alone in my house an he spoke to me about the fact that it is impossible to just have one feeling and that peace comes from allowing opposing feelings to coexist, to not make them war against each other. It’s a bit like mothers who say that they love their kids but they would love just a little time alone and then hate themselves or they feel guilty for saying that. Both those things are true. They can love their children and want time for themselves. I can love being alone and be afraid of it at the same time.
Here’s another horrible confession I have to make. Over the last 6 weeks since I’ve been officially living alone for the first time in a while - I have been eating terribly! Like embarrassingly bad, I have honestly been shocked at myself, and I feel like a complete hypocrite! But this week, I snapped. I was like JULIA YOU CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. But then I was like how do I do this again? Because I’ve kind of been living in this temporary state for the last 18 months, living on and off with people, I haven’t had those old eating routines. But this is a really great next step for my podcast. I want to really ask myself how do I eat better, and how do I honour not only the podcast and you guys who are listening to it and the conversations I’ve been having over the last year but how can I also honour the kitchen for one? It doesn’t really help that I’ve not had a proper working kitchen yet because my house isn’t finished and I’ve been using an electric plug in hob and doing my dishes in the bath, but that’s another story.
I’ve just found that personally my eating habits that I’ve had over the last 6 weeks have been horrible! I eat too much chocolate, I can never be bothered to cook, takeaways and sneaky beers and too much caffeine has kind of been creeping up on me and I eat at funny times and I eat too much and then I make too little, and then I eat too fast, I buy too much food that goes off in the fridge and I have to throw it away, and then I never do my dishes, I eat standing up, I eat on the floor, I eat on my lap…you know, the list continues. There’s a lot of things wrong with the way that I’ve been eating.
So what do I do? Well, after 10 episodes, I’ve decided to stop dawdling and go deeper. To lean into the loneliness but also view this as a design project, you know, I did start my career as a designer at the end of the day, so what are the solutions, how do we help each other eat better alone, how do we help each other feel better alone. And that’s why I think I’m really making this podcast. I want to make you and also I want to make me feel better about something that doesn’t always feel good no matter how many times I tell you that it’s fine. Because sometimes it’s not fine.
I listened back to the last episode, Episode 9 with Rachel Belle and I thought it was funny that she asked me what my favourite thing to cook alone was, what my go-to dish is - I’ve actually been making this a fair amount for myself, it’s kind of like a kitchen cupboard staple, it’s anchovy and onion linguine. So, this is how you make it, you finely chop half an onion, ideally a red onion, (because these are the most delicious types of onions) - finely chop a clove of garlic, fry these low and slow, drained a tin of anchovies - you can keep the oil, I generally have a jar of anchovy oil in my fridge just to add flavour to other dishes, so drain your tin of anchovies, chop them up, add them to your onions and garlic, fry again low and slow and start to add spices, add a couple of pinches of each of these - so I put in, tarragon, sumac, cumin, coriander and onion seed. Don’t put any salt in because the anchovies make this super duper salty. Also, when you start making this it looks like catfood, it doesn’t look that appealing, but once you’ve boiled and drained 115 grams of linguine or spaghetti (and I will say 115 grams because to me it’s the perfect amount of spaghetti for one person) toss the sauce through the pasta and added chopped, fresh parsley on top, and you got this delightful kitchen cabinet dish! And you probably have all of these ingredients in your kitchen already. If you don’t eat fish or don’t like anchovies, this also works really well as just an onion pasta dish, so use a whole large onion rather than half and add some grated parmesan on top as well. You can find this recipe on the Edible Archive’s website - so if you head over to theediblearchive.org, scroll through to the ‘How to eat alone’ section of the website and it’s under recipes for one. You can also find out more information about this podcast, or send me a message or let me know what you think on the instagram page, just head to @howtoeatalonepodcast.
So that’s where we’re at with this podcast, I wanted to check in, I wanted to say that I’m proud of the 10 conversations that I’ve put together so far and I’d really like to thank my guests for talking to me and thankyou so much for listening! There’s lots more work to do surrounding this topic, but slowly, I’m trying turn the inner monologue of ‘I’m so lonely’ into ‘Ahhh… alone at last’
As always I hope you’ve enjoyed being alone with me for this episode and if you like this podcast, please share it with others who you think might like it or give it a good rating wherever you get your podcasts from. I’ll see you next time for the next episode of ‘How to eat alone…’