"Excuse me," Joe said as he tried to get by me. I was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, holding an open book.
When he passed back by a little while later I was leaning against the door frame and several pages further along in the book.
"You'd probably be a lot more comfortable if you sat down and read that."
"Oh, I'm not reading it. I'm just glancing through it."
Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant, published last month by Riverhead Books, is not the kind of book you want to sit down to read because if you do, you'll probably find yourself unable to stop reading. And a couple of hours later you'll probably find yourself wishing you hadn't just devoured the entire thing in one large gulp.
No, this is the kind of book that should be consumed in small bites, over as long a period of time as humanly possible. Reading while standing up, and lying about it, are perfectly acceptable ways to help you do this.
Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant is a wonderful collection of "confessions of cooking for one and dining alone." Editor Jenni Ferrari-Adler came up with the concept for the book—which she discusses in the introduction that doubles as a bonus essay—and then convinced a talented list of writers and foodies to divulge "the secret meals they make for themselves when no one else is looking."
A few of the essays even include recipes, and a handy section at the end of the book offers a one-paragraph biography of each of the 26 contributors, which include Nora Ephron, Steve Almond, Ann Patchett, Paula Wolfert, and M.F.K. Fisher.
Dinner alone is one of life's pleasures, writes novelist and beloved food writer Laurie Colwinin her essay, "Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant," which inspired both the title and the book itself. 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.
Standing in the kitchen doorway reading this book while convincing myself I wasn't actually reading it was really quite appropriate, for when I'm feeding only myself it isn't so much what I eat as how I eat it. And that would be standing up. In the kitchen. While convincing myself that I'm not yet actually eating.
You see, I'm a professional nibbler. I rarely sit down to a home-cooked meal hungry, and I feel that appetizers should never be served unless they are followed immediately by dessert.
When Joe was away from the farm recently, he called about nine o'clock one night to check on me. After describing a rather fancy restaurant dinner he'd just been treated to, he said, "So what did you have for dinner?"
There was a long pause as I tried to figure out how I should respond, realizing all the while that this wasn't the sort of question one usually has to think about.
"You did eat something, didn't you?"
"Yes, of course." Cream cheese frosting. With my fingers. While I was supposed to be spreading it on a cake. "I had some of that cabbage salad stuff."
Then I stared down at the small bowl of that cabbage salad stuff I'd been dishing up for a late night snack when the phone had rung. The truth was, I'd made the salad--a several ingredient concoction that calls for gentle stirring and careful sampling after each addition--hours earlier, but once it was finally finished I'd had that oh-so-familiar realization. Uh oh. I'm full.
If you're the type of person who always asks your friends and loved ones what they had for dinner, likes to spy on what other people in line at the supermarket are buying, and wonders why characters in novels don't spend a lot more time eating and talking about food, Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant is for you.
I'm not going to give you details about the various essays or offer comments, because in my opinion, this is the kind of book where the less you know going into it the better. Besides, I haven't finished it yet. If you feel you simply must know more and aren't afraid of spoiling your appetite, you can click here to read a detailed description and Publisher's Weekly's review.
And if you're one of those people who needs to flip through a book before buying it, I suggest you head to your favorite local bookstore just before closing time. Otherwise you'll probably be surprised to find yourself several hours later, leaning against a shelf with the open book in your hand and suddenly realizing Uh oh. I'm done.
The good news is that unlike a wonderful meal, once you've consumed this entire delicious read you can simply turn right back to the front and enjoy the whole thing all over again.
So what do you eat when you find yourself alone in the kitchen? Come on, 'fess up. I won't tell anyone.