Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is a quality compilation of accounts on cooking and dining alone. I got it during the going-out-of-business sale at The Cooks Library. I like short nonfiction pieces, and I knew with graduation ahead of me I’d probably be eating alone more often.
The book features 26 essays from a former editor of The Onion, a New York Times food columnist, a screenwriter, some novelists and other writers. The range of styles means a everyone will find a few essays they love and some they’ll forget, but the book is never boring. I had two favorites, one of which I read aloud to Michael, the other Kat.
Courtney Eldridge’s “Thanks, But No Thanks” brought out a range of emotions as she talked about the differences in how she ate as a child of a poor Catholic family and how she dined with her Israeli husband and mother-in-law, both with strong opinions on what makes a proper meal. The husband is now her ex and she’s learning to cook and eat alone. It was touching and often hilarious in its matter of factness.
- “You know I’ve often heard Anthony Bourdain bandy the word ‘orgasmic’ about, and I’d always roll my eyes thinking, well, no shit, you’re a man: that’s a given. But still, the chef’s special at Sushi of Gari is a culinary multiple orgasm.”
My other favorite essay, also memorable for its sometimes snarky perspective was “Que Sera Sarito: An (Almost) Foolproof Plan to Never Eat Alone Again.” Besides making me laugh repeatedly, Steve Almond struck me because I could relate to how he felt about writing.
- “I would love to tell you that learning to cook was part of my journey toward actualization. I would love to tell Oprah this. I would love to tell Oprah this while weeping. But I learned to cook for a much simpler reason: in the abject hope that people would spend time with me if I put good things in their mouths It was (like practically everything else I do) a function of my desperation for emotional connection and acclaim. Most writers are driven by the same impolite needs, though it is terribly unfashionable to admit that this is the case. Ironically, the act of writing itself is a terribly inefficient way of gratifying these needs, particularly in this age of joyous illiteracy. Cooking makes a lot more sense.”
As writers, we’re looking for people to listen, for people to understand us. Cooking does seem to be a better way to get their attention. Why do you think have so many friends lately?
[Edit] Recently saw a book called What We Eat When We Eat Alone, which is the same idea with different essays. It just came out, but has anyone read this yet?