Can a Guy Learn to Cook at 93?

How 12-year-old Lizzy inspired Harold to start cooking

10EasiestRecipesSamplerOn my blog and in my newspaper column back in September, I shared the cooking adventures of 12-year-old Lizzy, who cooks almost every weeknight for her family. And loves it.

“Do you have something to suggest for a beginning cook—when a partner of an aged person can no longer function as cook, and the other one has to take over?”

But I never expected to receive a letter like this in response:lizzypose2

Your column on Lizzy gave me courage to ask whether I could begin to learn to cook. . . . This is very late for a 93-year-old [man] to be asking that question. I may not become much of a chef but I could begin. Do you have something to suggest for a beginning cook—when a partner of an aged person can no longer function as cook, and the other one has to take over?


I loved the letter and the question, because for many men, in particular, it can be extremely daunting to pick up cooking in older years if they have not learned to cook earlier in life. Especially if you gaze at the many cooking gadgets and gizmos online or in a gourmet cooking store.

I put the gist of this question—how does an elderly guy start learning to cook—out on Facebook, and people responded with great ideas. I’m not sure I would have thought of all these angles!

Lauree went back to her days of learning to cook and remembered that it might be good to master just a few favorite recipes that you both like to eat and can make often. Her go-to meals were chicken and rice soup, skillet hamburger macaroni, tuna noodle casserole, and oven fried chicken. I would add that oven baked chicken tenders covered with Italian dressing make a great meal; adding some noodles, rice, or salad makes a complete and easy meal.

Lauree further suggests, “I would advise him to keep it very simple; don’t have expectations of fixing a big sit-down dinner every day. It would be best to have lots of nutritious, tasty foods handy to easily heat up whenever one of them is feeling the need to eat something.” She points out that leftovers from a big cooking endeavor are good, but so are sliced fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, chicken salad to quickly make a sandwich, or a tossed salad made of prerinsed and precut veggies.

Ronda, and a number of others, suggested that crockpot meals or main dishes are an easy place to start. If gadgets agree with you, she also suggests a panini maker for those tasty, restaurant- or deli-style toasted sandwiches. Casseroles—or other one-dish meals—are also an easy start.

Jane also directed Harold in the direction of crockpot cooking, adding, “Bless his heart,” to which I would only add “Amen.”

Evelyn mentioned the popularity of “five-ingredient recipes, one-pot meals, and semi-homemade meals (utilizing canned or boxed products). If limited income is an issue for an elderly person, look for inexpensive ingredients.”

Ruby, who I happen to know and lives in Harold’s general area, suggested a list that sounds good to me too: “Simple soups, egg dishes, Hamburger Helper or macaroni and noodle dishes with some ground meat (turkey, beef).”

My church friend Beverly, who also lives alone, notes that if you go the crockpot direction, today there are lovely small-sized crockpots that suit older eaters better. Another church friend, Pat, suggested finding someone to go shopping with to get started. I second that!

Finally, Elsie simply suggests my old standby, spaghetti and meat sauce. In this case, buy jars of canned spaghetti sauce in any of a huge variety of particular flavors (so many choices!) and add meat if you like. I recently subbed in ground turkey instead of beef and there was absolutely no difference in taste, in my opinion.

I do hope that Harold coming forward with his question will give courage to others who might be toying with the same idea—no matter what age, no matter what gender. There are so many helps out there it can be overwhelming, but I think these readers have offered some awesome starters.


I have compiled a sampler from my book Whatever Happened to Dinner?, called “Ten Easiest Recipes from Whatever Happened to Dinner,” inspired by Harold’s great question. It includes 10 of the easier recipes from the book, some with photos. It is available by email as a free PDF (printed document format) download, or by mail for $1 towards postage and handling costs. Email me for a link to the PDF sampler at or write to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802. Or, download it right here: 10EasiestRecipesSampler