Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is the book that jump-started my love for cooking, food, and food writing.
Jenni Ferrari-Adler is the editor of this adorable collection of foodie essays. I first read this book just after college, and the idea of cooking just for yourself spoke to me, despite my relatively limited cooking history. In college I subsisted on canned soup, macaroni and cheese, the cafeteria salad bar, and Subway (A good friend of mine lived in an apartment over Subway, and to this day the smell of Subway makes me think of her). I made a pretty mean (and seriously cheesy) veggie lasagna in college for friends when they came over, but my meals for myself involved a lot of grab and go.
In my first apartment after college, I had an absolutely gorgeous kitchen. It was huge and sunny and bright, just a friendly, inviting room. I had never really cooked before, and had just stumbled into the world of healthy living blogs. I had the space and the desire to cook, and this book provided the inspiration. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant strings together all sorts of engaging tales, from the grad student who sings praises for the black bean to another writer whose tolerance for repetition finds her eating epic amounts of oatmeal and saltines. These short essays highlighted some wonderful writing; and I appreciated both the stories of eating raw oatmeal because you couldn’t be bothered to cook it for just yourself, and carefully cooking the perfect meal of “single girl salmon,” setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy your own company.
I find many of my food habits stem from these essays. I savor the combination of honey stirred into greek yogurt for dessert thanks to one author, and my black beans and cornbread creation definitely drew inspiration from another. These days, when J is traveling, and I have just myself to feed, I settle into cooking from a different menu. While grown-up grilled cheese and kale salad make some appearances, I also stir up a different repertoire that includes veggie frittatas, risotto for one, and nearly anything with mushrooms.
Cooking for just yourself is oddly freeing. Alone in the kitchen, you can blast the music, and chop veggies while dancing in your pjs (just for example..). You’re free to experiment, since if the dish turns out dreadfully, you’re the only one to know. Plus there is something deeply soul satisfying about cooking for yourself, making just what you like, and knowing you’ve decided to take care of just yourself tonight.