Sunday, September 28, 2008

Review: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

For no apparent or conscious reason, I've been reading a lot of books about food. The first is Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, which a good friend got for me. As the title suggests, the book consists of essays about the joy (or burden) of cooking for one and eating alone. At age 14, I became the queen of eating alone, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. From an ode to asparagus to the challenge of cooking in a tiny apartment to the demise of a favorite restaurant, the essays capture the essence of what it is like to deal with the solitary meal.

The essays, by authors including Nora Ephron, M.F.K. Fisher, and Steve Almond, each approach the topic in a different way. Perhaps what is so intriguing is seeing how different people in different stages of life view the act of eating alone. People who are young and single find it disconcerting, but others with children and families find that eating alone is a rare luxury that should be savored. Several of the essays also include some intriguing recipes. While I haven't tried any of them, I am looking forward to the opportunity to making Il Tost (grilled cheese and ham sandwich, Italian style) and salsa rosa.

Like many collections of essays, this one can be uneven at times. However, there are far more hits than misses, and this book makes a wonderful companion for someone eating alone in a restaurant. It even makes a nice alternative for someone who eats the occasional solitary meal at home but wants to avoid the ubiquitous drone and flicker of the television set. Whether your idea of dining alone consists of eating ice cream directly from the carton or cooking a full meal and setting the table with place mats and candles, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant serves an assurance that either option is perfectly fine.