Alone In the Kitchen With an Eggplant

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant:
Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
Picked up this book from my roommate, and have been thoroughly enjoying it on the subway.  Each chapter represents a separate essay, detailing stories from all cookers and eaters.   Some stories ring true for me.   Since arriving in Boston 3 weeks ago, I have been adjusting to the new city, the new expectations required in grad school, and a new life.   Also I have been cooking solo.  I see my own quirky tastes mirrored in many of the author's sentiments.  It's true. We fall back on odd food habits when we dine for one.

Here I highlight my favorite selections:
by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
We agreed [...] that in cooking for ourselves, presentation [goes] out the window.  When I considered it later, though, I had to admit I liked my [...] mismatched thrift-store plates, chopsticks, and canning jars.  I even liked, I'm sorry to say, eating sandwiches while walking to class.  There was real pleasure to be had eating ice cream out of the container and pickles out of a glass jar, standing up at the counter.
Sharing stories of eating alone had made me less lonely.
If you choose to give this book to yourself, to keep it in your kitchen, my hope is that it will give you some company, some inspiration, some recipes that require no division or subtraction.  I hope it will remind you that alone and lonely are not synonymous; you will have yourself-and your food- for company.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
by Laurie Colwin
When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove-top cook's strongest ally.  I fried it and stewed it, and ate it crisp and sludgy, hot and cold.  It was cheap and filling and was delicious in all manner of strange combination.  If any was left over I ate it cold the next day on bread.
Dinner alone is one of life's 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.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
by Jennifer 8. Lee
published 2008

“Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie.  But ask yourself: How often do you eat apple pie?  How often do you eat Chinese food?”

These words mark the close of Lee’s first chapter in her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food.  

 I picked up this book one evening while browsing my local Brookline Booksmith.  Drawn to its bright orange-red cover, I found myself chuckling at the chapter headings such as “Chapter 5: The Long March of General Tso,” and “Chapter 11: The Mystery of the Missing Chinese Deliveryman,” or “Chapter 12: The Soy Sauce Trade Dispute.”  Three days later I had devoured the book, and am left smiling at its crunchy humor and insightful sweet aftertastes.  The Fortune Cookie Chronicles offers one women’s perspective into the history and evolution of the fortune cookie.  But more than that, Jennifer 8 Lee offers insights from her personal research on the global evolution and migration of the Chinese food phenomena.  

So, where did the fortune cookie really come from?  The familiar treat in American -Chinese restaurants is completely foreign in China.  Did you know that the fortune cookie messages have to be less than 12 words long?  Who writes these, and how did the messages grow to be a multi-million dollar business?   Lee unwraps the fortune cookie from the inside out, answering these questions and more as she mixing her tale with historical artifacts, interviews, threads of personal stories, and newsworthy tidbits.  As she notes, “The purpose of fortune cookies became startlingly clear to me then: this is Western wisdom recycled for an American audience.  The Chinese are just the middlemen.”

Lee uses the fortune cookie to launch into all aspects of the global Chinese food industry.    An expert on anything and everything related to Chinese food, Lee journeys across continents gathering stories from restaurant owners, business managers, Chinese immigrants, and even delivery-boys.  Her book represents a compilation of these stories, interspersed with her own personal Chinese upbringing.  

Read this book to find out why one made-up dish, “Chop Suey,” allowed the take over of Chinese food in America.  Learn about Misa Cheng, the NYC native responsible for the beloved concept of Chinese take-out and delivery.  Discover how to determine real soy sauce from fake soy sauce, and the global dispute on its exact definition.  Find out Lee’s verdict as she samples the world, searching for the best Chinese restaurant on planet Earth.
Overall, I loved this book.  Full of interesting stories and fresh perspectives, I found myself grinning on the subway as I turned page after page.  It is a witty read, leaving the reader fully satiated.  I know I will never eat Chinese food the same.

About Coconut Crumbs

Welcome to Coconut Crumbs!
Join me as I share my thoughts on all things food, nutrition, and health related.  This will be a place to remember nibbles, lessons, and musings from day to day.

In Coconut Crumbs you will find...
Book Basket: Passing along the scrumptious food, nutrition, or health-related books that I discover.
Crack the Coconut: Answers to your nutrition questions.
Currently Munching: Kitchen adventures and noteworthy food finds.
Dietetic Internship: Get a taste for the dietetic internship and hospital rotations at Tufts Medical Center.  (Huh?  What's a dietetic internship?  See the Bio tab.)
Nutrition: Tips and tricks for eating healthfully.
Spotlight: Health news or interesting observations that cross my trail.
The Indian Diaries: The best of Indian cuisine from Nikita Kapur, my roommate! 

Why Coconuts?
Coconuts symbolize my love for the sunny Hawaiian islands.  Though I grew up in California, my favorite childhood memories come from my grandpa's Manoa Valley home and his backyard jungle.  In particular, Coconut Crumbs is dedicated to my grandmother who worked as a dietitian in Honolulu.  Though I only knew her briefly, the stories of her nutrition work inspired me to pursue a career in nutrition.
*picture taken at Kahala beach, Honolulu, August 2006.*

About Me

My name is Rachel Yukiko Perez.
I am a graduate student studying Nutrition Communications at Tufts University, and am completing a dietetic internship at Tufts Medical Center.  I will be documenting my internship lessons, so let me explain briefly.

A dietetic internship is an accredited program that provides the required competencies to become a registered dietitian (RD).  This means 900+ hours of training in clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management.  What is a registered dietitian?  A registered dietitian is a licensed health professional who is qualified to provide nutrition care to healthy and sick people.  Dietitians work in a variety of settings including hospitals, fitness centers, food industry, consulting, corporate wellness, private practice, public health settings, universities, and research centers.  If you would like more information about dietetic internships or career opportunities for RDs, please check out this link by the American Dietetic Association.

I love food and am fascinated with its role in disease prevention.  I want to understand the science of nutrition, and communicate this knowledge into everyday living.
Thank you for reading!


Any thoughts or suggestions?  Please hang a comment or send an email.  I would love to hear from you.
Contact me at

Thank you,

*photo taken at Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan 2007*
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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