Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Book review

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

If you are looking for a book to take on vacation, to the beach, or on a plane, you couldn't ask for a better one than Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone. It's a compilation of essays and stories by a wide range of writers. The title references a piece written by Laurie Colwin, one of my all-time favorite food writers. Other writers include Ben Karlin, Nora Ephron, Steve Almond, M.F.K. Fisher, Marcella Hazan, Paula Wolfert and many more.

A reporter recently asked me why food plays such a central role in a couple's dating life. My response was that we are naturally social animals and eating is one of the most social experiences we share with others. It's a chance to relax, talk and connect. But at sometime or another we all end up eating alone. It might be by choice or necessity. We might love the experience or we might hate it. Because eating alone is a private affair, we might just give in to secret obsessions or desires.

All of this secrecy makes for something akin to peeking in your neighbors medicine cabinet. It's voyeuristic to be sure. But in this case, a lot less unethical! I particularly liked discovering some voices that were new-to-me such as Erin Ergenbright who writes about a demanding customer who eats at an upscale restaurant in Portland, always by herself. Phoebe Nobles essay on eating nothing but asparagus is masterful. Laura Calder's essay is so laugh-out-loud funny that I was surprised I hadn't heard of her before. I can't wait to read more of her stuff.

This is the perfect book for someone newly single, but really, it's a book for everyone who enjoys reading about people and food and where the two intersect. Kudos to editor Jenni Ferrari-Adler for choosing such terrific writers and memorable stories. This is an anthology to savor.

Over at Bay Area Bites is my review of Fish Forever which includes a recipe reprint.