November 15, 2007

BOOKS: Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, Jenni Ferrari-Adler, ed. (2007)

26 essays by assorted authors and foodies on the challenges and joys of cooking for one and dining alone; several of the pieces have a recipe attached.

This sort of collection is always a hit-or-miss kinda thing; the hit-to-miss ratio is surprisingly high here. Among the most entertaining pieces are tributes to black beans, asparagus, and chili (by Jeremy Jackson*, Phoebe Nobles, and Dan Chaon, respectively); M.F.K. Fisher's lament about the challenge of being a known food person (you eat alone more because none of your friends dare to cook for you); and Ben Karlin's story of a sauce, "The Legend of the Salsa Rosa."

Seven of the pieces are reprints; the rest are original to this volume. A charming collection, lots of fun.

(* -- I'm going to take this opportunity to do a little proselytizing on behalf of Jeremy Jackson, one of my favorite unsung writers. He's written two charming little books -- The Cornbread Book and Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me (love that title!) -- which can be viewed as small cookbooks with digressions, or long essays interrupted by recipes. His two novels -- Life at These Speeds and In Summer -- are fine books; I'm particularly fond of Life at These Speeds, which is a loopy, slightly surreal take on the high-school coming-of-age genre. And a quick look at my library catalog shows a third cookbook, Good Day for a Picnic, which I have not yet read but am reserving a copy of this very moment. Go read yourself some Jeremy Jackson. You'll be glad you did.)

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