“Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” is the title of a book I read recently. The editor says in the intro that it is “an anthology of essays on cooking for one and dining alone that could function as a cookbook as well as a lifting-off point for readers to follow their instincts and create their own idiosyncratic meals.” Since Jenni Ferrari-Adler did not ask me for my essay for her book, I decided to record my own idiosyncratic meal here.
Before I get to that I need to clarify a few points. Unlike some of the essayists, I would not think about what’s for dinner at 7:30 p.m. Dinner comes to my mind almost the moment my eyes open in the morning, sometimes even before then. Second, if I had to think of one dish that would suffice as dinner in a pinch it would definitely not be salad. Don’t get me wrong I like salad. However, I believe most vegetables are paired best with meat and gravy. Lastly, I never eat alone. Even if no one is at the table with me I find good companionship by reading a book.
Now for that idiosyncratic meal…I would cook up some macaroni, drain it and then add a healthy dose of Velveeta to be set it aside so it gets all happy. The first dish eaten would be mandarin oranges, speared by fork right out of the can as I stand near the stove sauteing my second dish of mushrooms, onion and garlic topped with a little salt and pepper. The main dish would be that macaroni swimming in melted, gooey Velveeta. Yes, dessert is not on the menu. In my mind, dessert (or pie in particular) is eaten only at breakfast.
This meal takes me back to the days when I would forage for food in my mother’s kitchen, when my joy of cooking was just awakening. Mandarin Oranges were considered a delicacy. Mushrooms were exotic (they were only sold in the can back then. Today I prefer fresh.). And Velveeta (otherwise known as pasteurized process cheese food) was cheap, filling, comfort food.
So for the record there’s my "i" meal and essay. Chew it over and let me know.