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Jenni Ferrari-Adler – Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

April 16, 2009

41. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler (2007)

Contributors: Steve Almond, Jonathan Ames, Jami Attenberg, Laura Calder, Mary Cantwell, Dan Chaon, Laurie Colwin, Laura Dave, Courtney Eldridge, Nora Ephron, Erin Ergenbright, M. F. K. Fisher, Colin Harrison, Marcella Hazan, Amanda Hesser, Holly Hughes, Jeremy Jackson, Rosa Jurjevics, Ben Karlin, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Beverly Lowry, Haruki Murakami, Phoebe Nobles, Ann Patchett, Anneli Rufus, Paula Wolfert

Length: 288 pages

Genre: Non-fiction; Essays

Started: 13 April 09
Finished: 15 April 09

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 07 January 2009
Verdict? Definite keeper – probably on the dining room table, for re-reading when I’m eating alone.

Eating alone? Not
a problem; more authors do
it than you might think.

Summary: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is a collection of essays from cooks, chefs, writers, and others, all on the theme of eating alone. There’s a broad range of topics that fall under that heading – essays confessing what people crave when no one is watching, essays from people who make eating alone a celebration, essays from people who avoid eating alone whenever possible, essays from people who love cooking for themselves, essays from people who wish they got the chance to cook just for themselves, essays from people who can’t stand cooking but have mastered the art of dining out for one, and so on. There’s humor, commiseration, advice, soul-baring, and plenty of recipes for one.

Review: This was fantastic; a treat for the senses, and a balm for the soul of someone who habitually eats alone. While you can make the argument that eating is meant to be a social activity, almost everybody eats alone at some point in their lives, and this book sets out to remind us that while we might not be sharing our meal with anyone, we are never really alone in our solo eating. What I enjoyed most about this book was the sense of connection I found with the authors in almost each and every essay: Ann Patchett shares my love for Saltines spread with butter when no one is watching. Jeremy Jackson shares my love of canned black beans and the Moosewood Cookbook. Anneli Rufus and I share a craving for starch in all forms. Courtney Eldridge and I both have a food-snob ex in our past. Jonathan Ames and I have both made ourselves ill with poorly-cooked eggs. Beverly Lowry and I will both crave the same simple foods over and over again for weeks if not months at a time. Laura Dave’s essay is about moving to and cooking in New York City, but it sounded to me like she was talking exactly about grad school. And so on. The connections I made are not going to be the same ones that other people find, but there’s a wide enough variety that I bet everyone will find something they relate to. Not all essays will resonate with every reader – and for sure, some of them worked for me more than others – but there’s enough here that everyone will find something to enjoy. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you even vaguely enjoy food writing, read it. It’s funny, easy to read, full of tasty-sounding recipes, thought-provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Fyrefly’s Current Go-To Quick Dinner for One:
I haven’t been cooking much recently, since by the time I get home, all I want to do is curl up with a book, not stand over the stove. Therefore, my dinners recently have been mostly quick things with minimal prep, and have ingredients that will last in the fridge for a week or more. This particular variation is adapted from family road trips and picnics as a child – so it’s based on foods that can be found at little gas station/camp stores as well as at big supermarkets:

– 16 Ritz crackers (I like the whole-wheat ones, but as you will)
– 8 slices of cheddar cheese – slice 4 of these in half again, so you have 8 little squares and 4 long slices.
– 8 slices of summer sausage (turkey or beef work equally well)
– One apple, cut into eighths.

Makes 8 sausage-and-cheese cracker sandwiches, to be interspersed with 4 slices of apple with cheese… and then half an apple, either plain or with taffy apple dip (one tub of cream cheese, one cup of brown sugar, and a splash of vanilla, mixed until smooth), for dessert.

Dishes to do: One cutting board and one knife.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Official Book Page

Other Reviews: Shelf Love, True Confessions of a Book Lover Named M, Azuki’s Book Cafe, Beastmomma
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Call it seven-thirty on a Wednesday night.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 27: “So what does it say about my self-esteem that I know perfectly well how to make a velouté and yet would choose to crack open a can of SpaghettiOs when dining alone? (I am not using the word “SpaghettiOs” as a metaphor here.)” – one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, made of equal parts by mass butter and flour to form the roux, a light chicken, veal, or fish stock, and salt and pepper for seasoning.

  • p. 27: “Sure, I can make a sole meunière, but it must be done over a flame that is fit to brighten up the very gates of hell.” – dredged in flour and covered with a sauce of browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon.

  • p. 153: “When we meet, in other people’s houses or in restaurants, they tell me a few sacrosanct and impressive details of how they baste grouse with truffle juice, then murmur, “Wouldn’t dare serve it to you, of course,” and forthwith invite some visiting potentate from Nebraska, who never saw a truffle in his life, to register the proper awe in return for a Lucullan and perhaps delicious meal.” – marked by lavishness and richness; sumptuous.

  • p. 203: “Of course, I was still eating my same way, ordering steaks and half-chickens and saucissons, shunning the baskets of bread, rolls, and pastries that came with meals and gleamed in bakeshop windows.” – a large, dry-filled sausage.

  • p. 205: “I like these foods more than he ever did, in the same way that converts are the most devout daveners in the shul.” – One who recites Jewish liturgical prayers; synagogue.

  • p. 251: “Here, then, were my madelines – material links to a former life – and I remember gathering several packages into my arms as if they were children that I had lost.” – a small, dry cookie; used by Proust in Rememberances of Things Past as a symbol for an earlier time in his life.

What about you, readers? What do you eat when you’re alone?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 12:44 pm

    This sounds like an awesome book! I eat alone all the time. Mostly, I cook larger but still uninvolved meals so I can have the leftovers for lunch over the next couple of days. My favourites are cannelloni with ricotta and spinach, spicy fake chicken rolls and either Dal Panak (lentils and spinach) or Paneer Makhani (cottage cheese in tomato butter sauce) served over rice.

  2. April 16, 2009 12:44 pm

    Your go to dinner sounds a lot like my go to lunch! The book sounds fantastic – I think my hubby would like it too.

  3. April 16, 2009 1:14 pm

    I usually melt cheese on a tortilla, throw in some lettuce, roll it up and call it lunch. or dinner.

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the color of the color. I think they call that aubergine (sounds better than eggplant)

  4. April 16, 2009 1:14 pm

    of the cover! how come I only notice typos after I hit the submit button?

  5. April 16, 2009 1:47 pm

    Memory – I do love the larger meals with leftovers strategy, but my current housing situation includes two housemates both cooking for themselves, and a kitchen that is not large enough for three people to be cooking independently – and rather than elbow may way into some counter space, I’ve been eating a lot of stuff that doesn’t require much time spent in the kitchen proper.

    bermudaonion – I think this book has one of the widest potential audiences of anything I’ve read… it’s applicable to just about everybody.

    Care – Isn’t the cover gorgeous? And it feels very appropriate too.

    Care, part 2 – There’s got to be a name for that phenomenon, like Murphy’s Law or something, for as frequently as that happens!

  6. April 16, 2009 2:03 pm

    Thanks for pointing out this book to me. This sounds like a must-read.

  7. April 16, 2009 10:08 pm

    This sounds really interesting. I actually like going out to lunch by myself…it’s a good excuse to get some reading done. :-D

  8. April 16, 2009 10:14 pm

    diaryofaneccentric – Yup, I think it is! I don’t remember how it got onto my wishlist, but I’m glad it did!

    softdrink – A lot of the authors were very down on bringing a book with you to restaurants, as it causes you to miss the experience of dining alone and makes you not focus on your food, etc., etc. Nuts to them! I’ve got a restaurant I go to often enough that they know if I’ve got a book under my arm, it’s a place setting for one, and if I don’t, they’ll bring water for two or more. :)

  9. April 16, 2009 10:42 pm

    Ooh, this is something I feel like I’d enjoy a lot! I love eating and even reading about food! Heck, I even go through cookbooks imagining the taste of the succulent dishes on the photos spreads :)

  10. April 17, 2009 11:08 am

    Lightheaded – I own many more cookbooks than I actually use, and I will just flip through them and imagine…

  11. April 21, 2009 7:05 pm

    this sounds like a great book, and what a nice cover.
    I like the quotes you listed.
    when i’m alone, I tend to snack more than anything.

  12. April 21, 2009 9:03 pm

    Hubby is an impossibly picky eater so most of the time I’m eating alone. May have to see about picking this one up!

  13. April 30, 2009 2:48 pm

    This sounds fantastic! I’ve put it on hold at my library. Thanks!

  14. April 30, 2009 3:22 pm

    bookworm – One of the best things my mom ever did, food-wise, was teach me the value of a “snack plate” – a hardboiled egg, some crackers, some cheese, some carrot sticks, some slices of fruit, a cookie or two, and you’ve got a meal!

    Ladytink – I hope you enjoy it! (And try giving it to your husband; he might enjoy it as well!)

    Darla – I really thought it was a fun read; I hope you like it!

  15. November 24, 2012 7:10 pm

    Found this when I was browsing your old reviews. It sounds delicious! I eat alone quite frequently and I do love food books. Adding this to my TBR :)


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