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We all remember that moment—that first time alone at home after the funeral—and he doesn’t come home for dinner. And we realize: He will never come home again. For me, it was the very worst time of the day. What was I supposed to do for the next five hours until bedtime?

I began to ask other widows, “What do you do about dinner?”

  • Two still cook a complete, balanced meal for themselves each evening. One sets the table just as she did when she was half a couple. The other eats on a tray at her desk while she does her paperwork.
  • Others never sit down. They stand at the kitchen counter and eat whatever they find in the refrigerator and pantry.
  • Some are “ladies who lunch.” That is their main meal of the day. The evening meal is a sandwich, soup, eggs, cereal or leftovers.
  • Many of us prefer going out to dinner every night. I am one of those who will accept a last-minute invitation even if I have already started to cook. My would-be meal goes into the refrigerator—or the garbage—and I go out.
  • One friend says, “I fix supper.” And so do I, when I am compelled to stay home alone.

Fixin’ supper—a decidedly Southern concept of meal preparation that suggests assembling items on a plate with little or no cooking or advance preparation required. The rotisserie chicken is almost a permanent resident in my refrigerator. It can be sliced for dinner or eaten on sandwich bread, added to salads, the leftovers turned into casseroles and soups. Last night, in my 5-minute meal pictured above, I heated cowboy beans from the deli counter in the microwave while I sautéed spinach. Today at lunch I’ll have a sliced chicken sandwich with raw spinach and sliced tomatoes. A can of 3-bean salad and jars of salad olives and artichoke hearts are chilling in the frig. Soon they will be drained, marinated in a little balsamic and olive oil, then tossed with tomatoes, spinach and gorgonzola crumbles—and possibly more chicken—for an entrée salad. I may shred the last remains of the chicken and mix it with the leftover cowboy beans and a little barbecue sauce for one more simple meal.

My secret for making my dinner alone enjoyable is to set a pretty table. I pull out Lev’s grandmother’s old silver tray and my mother-in-law’s dishes, silver and linens and eat at the breakfast table, with its pretty view of the patio and my iPad mini to keep me company. I have finally given myself permission to put my china and my Riedel stemware in the dishwasher, and my mother-in-law put the silver in the dishwasher for decades before I inherited it. What is the point of having nice things if we don’t use and enjoy them?

Feedback:
What do you do about dinner?
What tips will you share about keeping it good and nutritious but also simple and easy?