I recently received a copy for reviewing. I thought the book will be a cookbook, aiming at cooking for one. Not totally wrong. However the book reads more like a novel.
‘Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant’ is a compilation of stories and (sometimes) recipes written by 26 different writers, foodies, and others. The stories are funny, sometimes moving, guilty pleasures.
I like books I can read in parts, and here you can pick and chose. Personally I didn’t recognize most of the writers in the book (could be the book is more aimed at Americans?) but I dived right in and went for Haruki Murakami. Having just finished one of his books I was curious to see what he eats alone. Spaghettis. Up to such an obsessive point that he even refuses to offer help to friends in need when distracted from his spaghetti- moment. On the other hand it seems Ann Patchett trades gourmet food she cooks for others for endless snacks involving saltines.
The stories are as diverse as the writers and their solitary dinners. Which made me think: what do I eat or cook for myself when alone? I have to admit it almost never includes anything gourmet or time consuming. I understand how ‘Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant’ can appeal to people – we all have that solitary moment in the kitchen when we look for comfort, for solitude, for the perfect me-moment.
When on my own I can identify with Ann Patchett – I have lived moments when all I’ll eat was something from the fridge, in front of the fridge, probably with the fridge door open. But if I would have to recreate the ultimate me, myself and I moment with food it would be this: pot of boiling water, pinch of salt, polenta, some grated cheese (Emental works well, but any cheese will do) added to the polenta to create a somewhat gooey effect. A little butter on top. Served hot off the stove in a bowl. Ultimate solitary comfort.
In conclusion, if you have any inclination to look into the secret solitary kitchen life of some great writers, then read this book. It is entertaining, it is beautifully written, and you’ll also find the occasional recipe. Do not expect pictures. Do not expect gourmet sophistication. But do expect reality.
Which brings me the obvious last question: what is your ultimate ‘you and only you’ comfort food? What do you cook when you are alone in the kitchen with …?