This week’s post is dedicated to a review of the book “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant – Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone”, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Alder. I stumbled across this book when I was travelling, alone, and was immediately intrigued.
It is made up of a collection of chapters by various contributors, and is part memoir, part creative writing about food, part recipe collection. It certainly raises some interesting questions about how and what we eat. Call me strange, but I love reading about food, so I was really in my element devouring this book (and referring back to it over the years) and would thoroughly recommend it to anybody else who loves reading about food.
A quote to give you a flavour of some of the themes explored “Dinner alone is one of life’s little pleasures. 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” from the chapter “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” by Laurie Colwin.
Reflecting on this quote, and regardless whether you find yourself single, with a partner and / or children, there are occasions when we all find ourselves cooking for one and dining alone. In such circumstances, we are free to respond to whatever specific craving we may have, especially those cravings that may not constitute a meal, without explanation, whether that be a bowl of stir fried zucchini drizzled with a little lemon juice or nutella straight from the jar (two of my favourite indulgences). This book lets you take a peak into the secret eating habits of the contributors, and reflect on some of your own secret consumptions and food rituals.
I don’t mind cooking for one, and find this gives me a chance to experiment freely in the kitchen. Cooking, has for many foodies, been a way of providing care and nurturing for those we love. We should of course look after our own tummies and health as much as we look after those around us. Quite often when faced with the prospect of cooking for one, we don’t dedicate the same time and attention.
I do feel a bit uncomfortable dining out alone, especially in the evening. The book does explore this phenomenon. If I am travelling, I don’t let the discomfort stop me experiencing a new city, but I don’t think I have ever dined alone for dinner in my home town Sydney (perhaps something I should change). The book points out “alone and lonely are not synonymous; you will have yourself – and the food you love – for company”.
Single Girl Salmon
* This recipe is from the chapter “Single Cuisine” by Amanda Hesser in “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant”, and was originally adapted from Ginia Bellafante.
- 1/3 cup tiny green French lentils
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black petter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- Pinch sugar
- 1 7 ounce fillet salmon, cut from the center (ask to have a square piece, rather than a skinny slice)
- 1 teaspoon chopped flat-left parsley
- Lemon wedge
- Rinse the lentils, then pour them into a small saucepan with the garlic clove and bay leaf. Cover with water (about 1/2 inch above the lentils). Set a lid on top, slightly askew. Bring to the boil, then adjust the heat so it is at a simmer. Cook until the lentils are just cooked through but still have a little bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Ginia does hers so they are like firm peas or al dente pasta.
- Drain the lentils and put them in a bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the vinegar and the lemon juice. Fold and stir the lentils for a minute, so the seasonings blend well, then taste them. They should be quite tangy, because salmon is fatty and you will need something to sharpen it up. Ginia continued tasting the lentils every few minutes and adding more lemon as she prepared the shallots and salmon.
- Place a small skillet over medium heat. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the shallots. Drop in a pinch of sugar, then stir as the shallots cook, turning them over and over, until they’re soft and have a glazed and golden look. Transfer to a plate and pace the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with salt and lay it skin-side down in the pan. Let it cook for 1 minute. It will begin to render its fat and the skill will crisp and stick to the pan. When it is crisp, use a spatula to scrape up the skin. Ginia scrapes it up, quickly turns the fish and removes the skin from the pan. This may take one or two tries the first time around. Continue sauteing until the salmon is cooked on the edges and has just a thin line of pink running through the center.
- To serve, spoon the lentils onto a plate. Lay the salmon fillet o top, and dap on the shallots. Shower with parsley and squeeze over a wedge of lemon.
What is your favourite secret indulgence when dining alone? Has this post inspired any new ideas?