Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

Besides this being the best title of a book and essay ever, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant was a surprise read for me. I was at MLK Jr. Library the other day looking for any of the fifteen books from my Amazon wishlist. Before I left work for the block walk over to the library (I know, I love my job and its location), this gem was suggested to me by amazon.

I checked the DC Library system and sure enough, the eggplant book was waiting for me…or so I thought. After searching for the book myself and enlisting a librarian who was enchanted with my last name, she said that I should never trust the online catalog. She said she would call other libraries. Now, as the child of two librarians, I know my way around a library. I know all their tricks. And I knew, KNEW, that she would call the other libraries and have to scream the title of the book over the phone. I stood by in the downstairs window-lined room of MLK bracing for what I knew was to come.

Again, enchanted with my name she called Mt Pleasant Library and screamed, “I HAVE A NORWEGIAN WOMAN HERE LOOKING FOR A BOOK CALLED ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT.” I almost died on the spot. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate being yelled at/about/in my general lifespace. And why did she feel the need to yell that I was Norwegian? I’m not ashamed of this, but I am only a quarter Norwegian and for the record, I’ve never been there and lived in the US my whole life. The good news in all of this is that I hopped on the metro with all my afternoon commuting pals, heading to Columbia Heights, walked to my beloved Mt Pleasant and picked up the book.

A lot of effort for a book that I didn’t even know if I wanted to read. My commitment to the book was that I actually had an eggplant at home and was fresh out of recipes and ideas on how to cook it. I don’t like tomatoes and every recipe I found seemed to require eggplant and tomatoes. I was in a rut.

The editor, Jenni Ferrari-Adler decided to put together this collection of essays on cooking for one and dining alone. She said, through many conversations with friends who cook alone that they often eat weird items. One author loves white food when dining alone. One could make herself sick on pan con tomate. Another prefers to create a dining experience for herself as she loves to cook and loves to eat properly. We all eat alone at times in our lives- some of us more than others and this book acknowledges that we have certain rituals involved in our eating and our cooking.

I imagine (at no surprise to myself) that I love this book so much because I truly believe in people eating together. I think it all goes back to that whole Eucharist thing. Let’s be honest, I believe in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup as a central act of the church.

In one of the last essays, “The Lonely Palate,” Laura Calder writes,

Eating alone is not nature’s way. Babies never eat alone. They can’t. Children don’t unless they’re in tragic circumstances. Old people eat alone regularly and it’s dreadful. No wonder they lose their appetites. My theory (and I have several solo diners behind me to back it up) is that to compose a happy character and this contribute to making the world a nice place to live in, you’ve either got to be fed (that is, by someone other than yourself who cares about you), which feels good and means that you’re art of something larger than yourself; or, you’ve got to be the person feeding (that is, others people–not just dogs!–that you care about). That has the same positive effect.

The essays also include recipes for the author’s favorite cooking alone meals. Go to your library and pick it up! But don’t tell the librarian your last name…

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6 Responses to Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

  1. myles says:

    Don’t you love being outed as a Norwegian?

  2. grundsetleah says:

    I’m going to out you now.

  3. Carl says:

    She would probably think I’m Spanish. On the topic of the spiritual aspect of eating and therefore agriculture (“Eating is an agricultural act” –Wendell Berry) I am currently reading Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture by Ellen Davis. I highly, highly recommend it. She was on Speaking of Faith about a month ago, and you can listen to the podcast for a teaser.

  4. grundsetleah says:

    Carl, I need to read that. Perhaps the DC Public Library will have it.

  5. Tony says:

    Hi Leah, I’m a 3/8ths Norwegian DCPL librarian (though not at the MLK location). I apologize for the experience you had trying to track down that book. Hopefully your future book requests will be fulfilled in a smoother manner. Unfortunately, DCPL does not have Ellen Davis book recommended by Carl — it’s a little too specialized for our collection. However, I do see that there are copies at a number of university libraries in and around D.C., so it might be possible for us to get it for you via inter-library loan. If you’d like to go that route, just stop by any library and there’s a form they’ll have you fill out. Happy library browsing!

  6. grundsetleah says:

    Tony, I love DCPL system-thanks for all the work you all do. And thanks for the idea about the Ellen Davis book. Will have to check that out!

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