Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
I just spent a gorgeous Fourth of July week up in Maine. Sun and cool breezes and a deck with a great chaise longue meant I had plenty of opportunity for reading and when I didn't have my nose buried in a cookbook planning for 'The Flavours of France' week coming up, I had my nose buried in Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.
In my previous life I worked in downtown Boston and spent about an hour every morning and afternoon commuting on the local commuter rail. I read voraciously during this time sometimes up to two or three books a week. Often I would choose compilations because I could dive in and out of the book and finish a story or two before the train rolled in to South Station. Compilations are a little like tapas or mezze. Little bites of things that can be savoured and enjoyed without your palate getting bored or dulled by one flavour. So when the publisher asked me if I would like to read a copy of Alone in the Kitchen I jumped at the chance.
Each of the stories in this book is dedicated to solitary dining. The things we make or like to eat when we are alone. In the years that I lived in this house alone with the puppy before the arrival of husband upon these shores I can assure you that I ate some things that would be considered rather bizarre in mixed company. I tend to have a penchant for vinegary and spicy with an immediate switch to several days of cheesy, creamy and comforting. The arrival of the Brit and his general dislike of things vinegary and cheesy, not to mention eggplant, has meant that we have dining together-alone nights. I make dinner for me, he makes dinner for himself and we dine separately but together.
Jenni Ferrari-Adler has gathered a great collection of writers from M.F.K. Fisher, Marcella Hazan and the late Laurie Colwin to Laurie's daughter Rosa Jurjevics, Nora Ephron and Haruki Murakami to create her vision of a book that speaks to the solo diner. I love that these stories speak of the repetition a solitary diner often craves like making the same dish, night after night or how buying one head of lettuce when you live alone means inventing quite a few ways to use that head if you don't want to see it languishing and wilting in the produce drawer or how that loaf of bread goes from sandwiches, to French toast, to croûtons to bread crumbs.
A few of my favorites were Thanks, but no thanks by Courtney Eldridge a story about selfishly living and dining alone after a relationship with a domineering partner and his even more intimidating well heeled food obsessed mother. The Year of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami a brief story that encapsulates then need to sometimes be not just alone, but solitary as well and How to Cook in a New York Apartment by Laura Dave.
Perfect with a glass of Rose and a sunbeam anywhere, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is delicious reading for the food inclined whether you cook for one or for many.