Cook the Books: Eating alone…

This round of Cook the Books featured Home Cooking:  A Writer in the Kitchen by the late Laurie Colwin.    

I found this book humorous but melancholy.    I kept thinking about Colwin’s sudden death at such a young age.   Perhaps (not perhaps—most assuredly) it has something to do with an approaching birthday that inches me toward the age of forty-eight, the age of Colwin’s death.

Her writing was so prolific during her short life and I wonder what else she could have accomplished.      In a 2003 article in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley states:

A decade after her lamentably premature death, Laurie Colwin enjoys a distinction that eludes all but the luckiest among living writers: All her books are still in print. Never a best-selling writer, she attracted an ardent following that has remained steadfast and recruits new devotees by word of mouth.

For the complete article, click here.    Thank goodness CTB’s word-of-mouth introduced me to Colwin’s writing.

So, back to Home Cooking and the task at hand—writing this CTB post.

After finding myself alone for more than a week while The Hubs traveled out of state for his job, I found myself eating alone a lot (mostly eating unhealthy crap) which brought me back to Colwin’s essay on eating solo, “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.”

She made it sound like such a joy, and surely I have (when time allowed) relished some of my alone time in the kitchen, whipping up a pumpkin soup or an Asian inspired noodle dish (or Croque Monsieur)  and eating it at a single place setting.

That chapter brought me back to some times growing up when it would just be mom and me at home.   She would poach us eggs, open a can of tomato juice, and toast some bread.    The dish would be assembled by putting the poached egg on toast and then dousing it in warmed tomato juice.    It was heaven!

Colwin describes dinner alone as a time to delve into one’s deepest and weirdest desires:

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.

Well, I am not sure about those combinations, but I can tell you that warmed tomato juice over toast is to die for!  🙂

When mom was visiting recently, she found a recipe in Sunset and said, “Let’s make this for breakfast!”   She had found “Caprese Skillet Eggs” in the August edition.    We made the recipe (found here) and had them for breakfast served on some toasted English muffins.   Not only did it remind me of those long ago lost suppers with mom, but it was also very close to Colwin’s recipe for “Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Egg in One Pot.”

Caprese Skillet Eggs
from Sunset

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c.  chopped onion
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 t.  kosher salt
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
4 large farm fresh eggs
1/2 c.  shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 c.  mixed chopped fresh basil, oregano, and chives

Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat.   Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.   Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have softened and released their juices, about 5 minutes.

Use a spoon to make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and crack an egg into each.   Cover pan and cook until whites are firm and yolks are just starting to set, about 2 minutes.   Sprinkle with cheese and cover again to melt cheese slightly, about 1 minute.   Sprinkle with herbs and serve with toast.

Although we didn’t verbalize it, I know we were both thinking of those nights at home that found us alone and cooking a simple meal for ourselves.    This was delicious meal that we used heirloom tomatoes from mom’s garden, fresh herbs from my garden, harvested onions, and eggs from the FM.

Only my mom can grow these perfect tomatoes!

Love the color and flavors!

The final dish. (Much better than tomato juice on bread.)


I might throw in a pepper or two the next time I make this.

Home Cooking  has joined the ranks of one of my many dog-eared books.    I loved her essay on “Feeding the Fussy” and laughed my way through it:

Vegetarians, for example, are enough to drive anyone crazy.   Like Protestants, they come in a number of denominations.

And, I continued laughing through the foodie stories from Hell from “Kitchen Disasters.”   Colwin retells her attempt at using food to capture her beloved’s heart.   She, with no knowledge or instructions, decides to stuff a red snapper with grapes, shrimp and fermented black beans.   The result?

When it finally emerged from the oven, this fish looked like Hieronymus Bosch’s vision of hell, with little nasty-looking things spilling out into a pallid-looking puddle of undercooked fish juices.

Haven’t we all been there?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and in closing, I just have to add that this woman loved her some paprika!   Thank you Deb from Kahakai Kitchen for recommending Home Cooking, introducing me to Laurie Colwin’s writing, and hosting this month’s round.

The next CTB read is Heartburn by Nora Ephron.   Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food is giving us a glimpse of a food writer’s life gone bad with this novel.   Jo says, Heartburn is the bittersweet story of Rachel Samstat, a food writer, who discovers that her husband Mark has been having an affair with another woman, whilst she is VERY pregnant. The worse part is that it is not just a fling, but a relationship which has been going on for some time and is not about to end. Nora Ephron’s Heartburn is actually based on her own disastrous four-year marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein and is a funny, witty, heartbreaking, and mouthwatering story all at once.

The deadline for Heartburn inspired posts is Monday, November 26th.

Grab a copy of this  book and join in the  foodie fun! If you are new to Cook the Books, you can check out the guidelines here.


Postscript:   I heard last night at our football game that August: Osage County (yes, I am obsessed by this filming) is going to shoot in one of the small towns that makes up our district.   It is possibly going to wreak havoc on our afternoon bus routes.   Don’t you think that the principals need to meet with Producer George Clooney to work this all out?    Yessiree, Bob!


27 comments to Cook the Books: Eating alone…

  • These eggs look perfect my friend, what a delicious breakfast!
    To be honest I have not heard if Colwin but I would like to see her style of writing and the legacy she left behind in the kitchen 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  • Liz

    Don’t you love the dishes of your childhood? I know you enjoyed the tomato juice/toast concoction, but the grown up version you shared is a bit more tempting 🙂 I think it’s all that melty cheese…yum!

  • Loved this post! Thank you for turning me on to Laurie Colwin and her book. I’m going to have to take a closer look at it. As much as I love cooking for my husband, I do enjoy the few nights that he’s working and I cook for myself. It’s a great time to go nuts! What’s funny is that I usually reach for something with eggs. 🙂 These eggs sound and do look delicious!

    • That is funny. Scrambled eggs with goat cheese is another one of my go-to alone meals that I had forgotten about. I see that dish popping up soon in my kitchen for a solo dinner.

  • Gosh, I want to have breakfast with you my friend. I love the tangy taste of goat cheese with the eggs. The hubster is not a fan, thats ok more for me.

  • Oh my gosh, these look fabulous!

    I need to pick up a copy of this book and I NEEEED to find time to Cook with Books!

  • “Vegetarians, for example, are enough to drive anyone crazy. Like Protestants, they come in a number of denominations.” – LOVE that! And ask any non-vegetarian chef and you will get a resounding chorus of banging pots 🙂 As the wife of a chef, I do a lot of cooking and eating alone. It is the best of both worlds, I get to be single a lot and sometimes I get to have someone to share with. This book looks like it is truly worth reading. Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for coming by our blog. It took us a while to get here but we are glad we finally did!

    • I loved that quote too. Thanks for stopping by. I bet there is a lot of pot banging in kitchens having to deal with specialized diets. I heard Bourdain once go off on those with special diets who want to travel abroad. He basically said those in other countries tend not to have all the food allergies and quirks like Americans do—we’re spoiled. 🙂

  • I can’t tell from your last note if you are a bus driver or a principal but I have a feeling I’ve got it wrong either way. I know you are affiliated with a school, but never really knew what you did. Care to divulge?

    Now, as for this book, I’m bummed my library website is down right now-I’m scared I won’t remember to return to search for the book. Is there any way you can enable following comments by email? I never remember to return but when I do, I always see your replies to my comments and it makes me sad I miss so many.

    Your Caprese skillet eggs sound so good! And yeah, way better than tomato soup on toast. 🙂

    • Principal and although I have a bus DL per job specifications, I have never had to drive a route (knock on wood). I just got the play via kindle and am rereading it. Although I haven’t seen a star, I did see production crew yesterday. Will try to figure out comment responses. You always challenge me with technology. 🙂

      • You are a school principal? Did you ever tell us that? How did I not know? That is SO FREAKING COOL I could die. Is it an elementary, junior high or high school? I always loved my principals-they were always someone I looked up to. I bet you’ll get a glimpse of Merryl–that is also very freaking cool. I loooove her.

  • The melted cheese just spoke to my heart! The eggs look delicious! I haven’t heard of the writer but I am sure I would love her style!

  • I have a lone tomato which will be transformed into Caprese eggs tomorrow morning, thanks to you. It does sound delicious. I agree, her account of horrid meals was hysterical.

  • […] she found a recipe in Sunset and said, “Let’s make this for breakfast!”   She had found “Caprese Skillet Eggs” in the August edition.    We made the recipe  and had them for breakfast served on some toasted […]

  • I am really glad you liked the book. It is hard not to think of her death–so talented and so young.
    Your eggs are perfect–so cheesy and gooey–I’d love to have it with some good bread. 😉

  • Lovely post. I also enjoyed her writing style and humor a lot. And you chose a very interesting recipe.

  • I have bookmarked this recipe for sure. Some of my very favorite ingredients colliding in one pan!

  • Okay!! I love something sinfully simple and easy to try! I sometimes work a LOT of hours in a week, and your Caprese Skillet Eggs sounds right up my comfort food alley!! So close to Migas…(same theory with stale tortillas and cilantro rather than basil). I might check into doing these for Brunch tomorrow…plenty of ‘maters and basil here!

  • […] Alone in the kitchen with leftover eggplant… By Eliot, on October 1st, 2012 The title of this post is an allusion to an essay in Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking, a book that Cook the Books Club recently featured.     Colwin’s ‘s essay is actually entitled “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” and I referenced it in my latest CTB post. […]