Book Reviews

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


Reviews


REVIEW by Carrie Vasios

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone Edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
Riverhead Trade, July 2008
Paperback 288 pp., ISBN: 9781594483134

All of my roommates are out. I decide to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner because a student of mine was eating one as she walked into class. I remembered just how delicious that simple snack of three ingredients can be. Lacking bread, I pick up a half eaten box of saltines, leave a note for whoever’s food I am stealing (sorry, will replace ASAP), grab the PB and the J from the fridge, a knife from the drawer, and settle down on the couch.

Constructing my little sandwiches, I finish that box of saltines in about ten minutes. That’s when my meal dissolves into popping alternating spoonfuls of peanut butter and jelly into my mouth. Which dissolves into eating Bon Maman strawberry jam straight from the jar until 30 Rock is over and my teeth ache.

In my defense, I would argue that Jenni Ferrari-Adler, and the authors she includes in her anthology Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone told me that it was OK. When she is alone, Jenni admits to making a meal out of a half a loaf of bread spread with tahini and honey. Ann Pachett feasts on oatmeal for dinner, and Jeremy Jackson relishes a single can of black beans, spooned over cornbread. M.F.K. Fisher, the doyenne of all food writing, often ate canned tomato soup and crackers for dinner (albeit with a nice glass of French sherry on the side). Take that, mom!

But don’t be misled. This book left me inspired rather than appeased. Each essay in this delightful anthology is a love song to food. Phoebe Nobles chronicles eating asparagus every day for two months, and loving it. She calls herself an asparagus superhero. More than simply serving as an essay that moms everywhere might show to their reluctant children, Phoebe’s account of her love affair with asparagus is hilariously persistent. She steams, roasts, grills, and boils the vegetable. She eats the tender stalks raw, right out of the ground.

The essays also touch on the questions: what should I make? And how much? Should I make an elaborate dish, or is that indulgent? Steve Almond cooks for one, but hopes that someone will come over and join him. He makes an ethnically ambiguous dish he calls quesaritos, waiting for the knock on the door. He taps into a theme touched on by many of the writers in this book, namely the loneliness of eating alone. But loneliness can grow into joy, even self-discovery. Jami Attenberg takes herself out to an indulgent sushi dinner, where she orders and tips big, because her boyfriend will not. Beverly Lowry listens to the radio as she eats bowl after bowl of soup during her nights alone in Buffalo. She likes soup, and no one is there to tell her to do otherwise.

This book illuminates what it is to “eat alone.” While food is arguably better shared, and cooking for other people can be a unique, divine expression of love for those we feed, don’t we need to love ourselves too? Why would we settle for a dining experience that is anything less than what we would share with others? Paula Wolfert realizes that she can combat her resistance to eating toute seule by making it a bit of a grand occasion. She purchases the best extra virgin olive oil she can find, along with a jar of fancy sea salt. Then she brings out a beautiful, terracotta plate she bought in Barcelona and eats her Pa amn Tomàquet, a Catalan dish of bread with tomato and ham, pretending she is back on a Mediterranean shore.

In short, these authors explore what it means to nourish ourselves, both in body and in mind. And they share some delicious recipes along the way. Coincidentally, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is the perfect companion to eating alone. Whether you keep it open next to your bowl of cereal (three kinds, mixed) or bring it along to a restaurant, you’ll forget that you’re not dining with a friend.


May 18, 2010