Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

EggplantBookGotham Fiction teacher Jenni Ferrari-Adler recently edited an anthology of essays about an interesting phenomenon—cooking for yourself.

The book, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, (Penguin Group) includes reminiscences by such authors as Nora Ephron, Ann Patchett, Laurie Colwin, Haruki Murakami, and Jonathan Ames. Some of the essays were commissioned for the book, while others Jenni found by rummaging through the cabinets.

Chelsea Now calls it “ a must-have addition to any food writing collection,” and the Washington Post says, “For anyone who lives and cooks alone, or remembers such days vividly, there's plenty here to savor.”

If you crave a taste, here’s a passage from Jenni’s introduction:

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All autumn essays floated into my computer’s inbox.  How good it was to know that Ann Patchett used to eat oatmeal in Provincetown, like a plow horse, like generations of Patchetts before her; that Beverly Lowry and Marcella Hazan eat anchovies; that Ben Karlin makes a sauce that changed the very course of his life! Some contributors react to their parents—Dan Chaon prepares a spicier, wilder chili than his mother used to cook; Anneli Rufus, free from her mother’s rules against carbohydrates, revels in making plain, starchy meals (and, like Amanda Hesser’s friend, she wants them white).  There are fantasies: Phoebe Nobles transforms for a season into the Asparagus Superhero; Jeremy Jackson sings the song of the black bean; Holly Hughes, the mother of three young children, imagines what she would cook if she could cook only for herself.  Colin Harrison, drawing on decades of solitary lunches, searches for his next regular restaurant. Laura Dave’s tale of cooking not only ends in but also directly causes romantic love.

On the flip side, Jonathan Ames poisons himself with expired eggs, and then basks in the comfort provided by the kind and bosomy waitress at his local diner. Erin Ergenbright writes from the perspective of a waitress serving a finicky solo diner and provides a recipe from the restaurant. Courtney Eldridge, not yet willing to produce the dishes her ex-husband, a chef, taught her to make, offers her mother’s salsa recipe.  Jami Attenberg braves a hotel buffet at a resort before retreating to the safety of room service.

With repeated readings I was able to inhabit each essay.  I walked to Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Market to buy the ingredients for Steve Almond’s quesaritos. At Steve’s suggestion, I asked the fishmonger for tiger-tail shrimp to make myself seem cool.  I made Jeremy Jackson’s black beans and rice and thought of Jeremy up to his arms in dried beans.  I wrapped myself up in a kimono and ate Nora Ephron’s mashed potatoes, a perfect predecessor to Laura Calder’s Kippers Mash, comfort food for a queen.  It’s almost impossible to make Marcella Hazan’s toast without thinking of how her husband calls her mangia panini (sandwich eater), or Paula Wolfert’s pa amb tomàquet without conjuring up her day of pure Mediterranean bliss, or Ben Karlin’s salsa rosa without thinking about hash and Italy.  If you do as Laura Dave instructs and listen to “Atlantic City” and drink two glasses of wine while you make beef stroganoff, it will be hard not to be swept into Laura’s Manhattan, in which all things lonely and difficult become romantic, glazed with youth and hope.  This book abounds with recipes, tips, idiosyncratic truths passed kitchen to kitchen, mouth to mouth.

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Copyright 2007© by Jenni Ferrari-Adler.  Reprinted by permission of Penguin Group (USA).  All rights reserved.

To buy this book online, go to  To learn more about Jenni and her book, visit