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Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant (book review)

March 3, 2010

Even looking at the cover of Alone In the Kitchen With an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, (edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler) I start to wonder- what do I cook for just myself? And to wonder how my friends and family would answer that question.

Setting this anthology up as a series of confessions invites the particularly weird revelations, combinations, and cravings even the authors seem to feel a little sheepish or defensive about. Rosa Jurjevics depicts her roommates’ confused reaction to the melange of international groceries that makes her a happy “Food Nomad.” Others toy with their loneliness and solitude a little defensively. Recalling solitary eating of the past, in grad school, in foreign countries, in between romances, as if to say “nothing is wrong with eating alone. But- I got better!” MFK Fisher is an exception, a food writer who eats soup and crackers alone because everyone she knows is too intimidated by her palate to invite her to share their table. Yikes!

Grad students on budgets eating beans, single women eating in restaurants like there’s something to prove, homesick expats craving foods that ignite memory.  The essays of food bound up in love and learning solitude after heartbreak read like a kind of expat narrative, too, relearning the customs of not being together with someone. Tastes tied to romance, tied to memories of family. The writing is universally fantastic- sensual and almost melodic. I love good food writing, especially memoir like this. It seems to share a style. Across different authors, the sentences of good food writing have a comforting resonance with me. I want to know what to call that. A desire to wallow in the language. And sometimes lick the pages.

I’m signed up for a Gotham Writers class in food writing. It’ll start next week. I wonder how the next 10 weeks will affect my appetite. Will I crave a different food with every new thing I read? (I’m still dying for the shrimp with avocado raita Steve Almond describes in Que Sera Sarito, An (Almost) Perfect Plan to Never Eat Alone”) Will I eat chemically orange mac and cheese from the blue box like I’m trying to restore my equilibrium? Or will I bankrupt myself at the farmer’s market?

Place your bets now. Frozen chicken fingers or a face plant right into a pile of radishes at Mignorelli’s farmstand?

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