09 August 2011

alone in the kitchen with an eggplant

In the mail yesterday, I got a book I'd ordered from Amazon: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone.

A friend was over for dinner, so I wasn't dining alone last night, although I do most nights, a fact that doesn't make me sad.

We had a dinner that featured zucchini and red new potatoes, along with hamburgers and ice cream sandwiches {those last two things were not eaten at the same time, of course}, and after dinner, we took baby pug for a long walk.

A late afternoon rainstorm had finally broken the heat, and I was wearing jeans for the first time since the beginning of July when I'd been in France.

As enjoyable as the evening was—and should my friend be reading this, I want to stress that I was so grateful for all the laughing we did—there was a hush of anticipation within me the whole night.

When she leaves, I can read my book about dining alone. I kept thinking this and then shaking my head to shake the thought away.

When one of your best friends is sitting across the table from you with a hamburger on a pretzel roll in her hands, you probably shouldn't be thinking about reading in bed.

But I was, and I just needed to admit that.

That's how excited I was for this book, which combines two of my loves: writing and food.

The title is the same as an essay by one of my favorite writers, Laurie Colwin. In her essay, there's this delicious paragraph:
Dinner alone is one of life's pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.
For a moment, let's relish that incredibly smart idea of a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. That is yet another example of combining two of my loves.

Moving on, let's think about cooking and eating alone.

I do it out of circumstance: I live alone, so most nights, it is just me. And I love it. Some people have to learn to love eating alone {or living alone}, but I took to it {to both of those things} with gusto and gumption.

As much as I love family dinners—and my family ate dinner together every night when I was growing up—and as much as I love dinner parties and having friends over for dinner, to me, there is such pleasure in spreading out the paper in front of me at dinner time.

Or reading a book of essays at the table.

Or even watching TV while eating. {Don't tell people I do that; it's a little secret of mine.}

There is such pleasure in making precisely what you want to eat and then sitting down in a space that is wholly yours and enjoying it: the quiet, the food, the time.

I realize not everyone feels this way. You, for example, might not relish cooking and eating alone.

Tell me: do you? Do you think dinner alone is one of life's pleasures?


  1. I used to be an absolute champion of cooking and eating alone. LOVE it. I would sit down every weekend and plan a week of menus, then go do my grocery shopping. I ate so well, and had so much fun trying new recipes, and loved sitting down alone with a fancy place setting and some candles -- and then life got really, really busy. So now dinner is more likely to be a guilty confession: a handful of cheez-its left over from my nephew's visit, some frozen-veggie-and-tomato-sauce mix, a freezer burnt veggie burger.

    My favorite really weird alone-food is a suggestion I read in my gigantic vegetarian cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (love her name): a spoonful of peanut butter mixed into reheated rice. It sounds insane but it's delicious.

  2. I love cooking for crowds and because of that I have a tendency to make too much food most of the time. However, I have to admit that I relish the nights when it's just me (although it doesn't happen very often). In the summer, my favorite thing to make for myself is Bruschetta. There is something about scooping fresh tomatoes and basil onto toasted garlic bread that makes me beyond happy.

  3. I love snacking alone. Or eating a meal just composed of snacks. Like pita chips & hummus. Or cheeze-its, the white cheddar kind, thank you. This snacking alone is made even more enjoyable when there is a book in hand. :)

  4. Rachel, peanut butter and reheated rice does not sound weird at all {to me, so maybe factor in my weirdness}. I've found, through discussions with others about "alone" food, that peanut butter is often featured on the "menu."

    I go through phases where I'm really good at planning my week of menus and experimenting {and yes, using the whole place setting shebang}. Right now, I'm not in that phase; I blame summer.

  5. Beth, yes, bruschetta. So good. Anything that involves garlic is good, isn't it? I would bet that since you don't often get to eat alone, those bruchetta nights would be extra-special!

  6. And Katie, I'm glad you weren't insulted by my confession that I was thinking about reading in bed while talking to you. You really are an engaging conversationalist; you know this, so I don't need to reassure you of that :)



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