Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant

Nursing Book Club

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant

Confessions of cooking for one and dining alone

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Ever come home dead tired, even (almost) too tired to eat? You’ve spent the day worrying about other people’s eating: an NPO sign not posted for a pre-op patient; a clear liquid diet that arrives as a full, with the mistake not discovered until after the milkshake is just a memory; or the little old lady in 3307 who can’t eat because she is afraid it will upset her stomach. So much of a nurse’s day revolves around food that it is easy to reach home starving but with no enthusiasm for cooking. My husband, who once had to eat three nights in a row at Sizzler, can attest to this phenomenon.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, bookSo what do you do? If, like some essayists in this book, you live alone or at least are spending the evening alone, fatigue may get you to lower your culinary standards more than a bit. The range of routines is fascinating: saltines with jam, SpaghettiOs, seven nights in a row of asparagus. I’m sure paper plates figure in here. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, at which we find a writer who, even when dining alone, garnished his plate with parsley.

With a versatile team of authors, from food writers like Marcella Hazan to pop culture maven Nora Ephron, these essays sparkle with humor and enlighten us with their insight into the social nature of food. And despite the thread of loneliness that comes through (after all, if you have any life at all couldn’t you invite yourself to dine with a friend?) there are one or two authors who relish a dinner alone. I salute the mother of four who was ecstatic when she figured out that neither husband nor kiddies would be around and she could indulge in Eggs Florentine a la Mom — alone! In truth, I identified more with her entry than any other — except my favorite “home alone” is chicken livers on toast.

This isn’t a cookbook, although it has the occasional recipe. And on the down side, it also has some unfortunate language and an all-too-casual reference to drug use. But mostly it’s is just a wonderful collection of musings by people who write well, know loneliness, know fatigue and, most of all, know the need to care for self. How else will there be anything left to care for others?

If seven nights of eggplant cooked seven different ways is appealing, go for it. You have their permission. And go for this book. It’s great leisure reading for any nurse who wants to take an overworked mind off electrolytes, I’s and O’s, and the alarm bells that rule the hours of the average workday.  

Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN, is a freelance writer with extensive hospital and community-based nursing experience.

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