Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin

Not exactly a cookbook and not exactly a narrative non-fiction account of food lovers, this has aspects of both things in its composition plus charming and appealing illustrations (not of the food but rather the situations). Madison and McFarlin apparently spent years asking people what they eat when they eat alone, even before they came up with the idea of creating this book from the answers. Each chapter ends with recipes culled from the responses and scaled to serve one or at most two people. They look at but don't come to many meaningful conclusions about the differences between how men and women cook for themselves. They offer up the things they think everyone should learn to cook before they are grown. And they discuss the motives behind meals, the themes they ran across amongst solo cooks, and the comfort foods that hark back to childhood.

The stories told in the book started to feel rather repetitive as I read along. And I have not yet tried any of the recipes, although a few piqued my interest. But be warned that the recipes are heavily weighted towards southwestern food (perhaps because they live in NM or perhaps because southwestern fare is fairly easy to cook for one) and they pre-suppose a proximity to a wonderful market in which to obtain fresh and oftentimes tough to find ingredients in so many other corners of the country. Mostly I liked leafing through the book and savouring the quirky illustrations more than actually reading the text. It might inject some needed variety in the menus of someone eating alone though. At the very least, it will be something with which to while away a solitary meal.


  1. I may have to check this out for the recipes.

    Good review
    Cheli's Shelves

  2. Would it be bad to admit there are a few recipes in it that make me want to send my family away for a couple of days so I can try them out? ;-)

  3. I have one of Madison's cookbooks and love it. I'll have to take a peak at this book. It's a great concept!


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