This is not a book about eggplant.
I do not like eggplant. But I love this book. For at least a dozen years now, it’s been one of my favorites. I forget about it from time to time, and then I see it on my shelf again, and I pick it up and thumb through it. Sometimes I sit down and read entire sections of it again, or I have a quick look through the recipes it contains. This happens a bit more frequently when I am actually home alone, but that’s by no means the only time I enjoy my copy.
The editor, Jenny Ferrarri-Adler, has done an excellent job of compiling some of the most compelling stories about dining alone into a singular collection that highlights the quirks as well as the sameness that we all feel when we are dining alone – especially if we are used to cooking for many people, either in our homes, or professionally.
I first picked up my copy when I lived in LA. My house in Venice Beach was a constant parade of friends, acquaintances, dinners, snacks, happy hours, and parties; I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t until I split from an ex and found myself with the occasional solitude at home that I really began to appreciate the book.
I bought it because of the eggplant on the cover.
As I said above, I do not even like eggplant. I never have liked it, and it’s probably not something I am ever going to like. Of course I thought the same about beets, since I truly believed they came in a can until I lived in California and met the fabulous myriad of available varieties at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The goldens, the reds, the striated, the multicolored opportunities. When I want beets now, it pretty much has to be on evenings when I am at home alone in the kitchen because I’m the only one in my house who likes them.
I will say right now that the idea of Jonathan Ames refrigerator scares the daylights out of me. And having just cooked a breakfast of french toast – on a weekday no less – I’m now incredibly concerned with his entire story really. And I do like Cafe Bustelo, although not many people know about it.
What about the recipes? Are they any good?
Dan Chaon’s Chili recipe is pretty good looking to me. Although I would slow caramelize the onions in the pan alone before I added the other ingredients in step 3. Just a personal preference based on cooking time and texture.
Paula Wolfert’s winding trip down memory lane leads to a rather delicious sort of bruschetta recipe, but you can only make that one when the tomatoes are really good; otherwise you are just wasting your time.
Jeremy Jackson’s Black Beans for one is rather superb, and of course the anecdotal writing from the likes of MFK Fisher, Nora Ephron, and Amanda Hesser can make for pleasant reading at the dinner table while consuming your meal for one; that much is a given.
Oh Ann Patchett, you never disappoint.
Having re-read a couple of the more solid chapters while prepping to write this blog entry, I have to say that Ann Patchett is tops on my list of the included authors. Her chapter is so very well written, teeming with honesty and dry wit and all of the things that I like in a book that I am delighted to read her part again. Every time.