The Pleasures of Cooking for One
Here’s an idea for singles: Instead of spending lonely evenings dining on beer and canned tamales, head out to your local high-end grocers for some duck fat, veal broth and San Marzano tomatoes. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Judith Jones’ newest cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, so those ingredients will make sense to you.
Jones has managed to cut through the psychological layers of frozen dinners and tuna sandwiches by offering singles a guide to fancy entrées and desserts for one, with detailed shopping lists, prep instructions and reader-friendly recipes. She’s edited for Julia Child and James Beard, so she has street cred. And although the food is definitely more bourgeois than beans and franks, she makes the information approachable.
Jones also addresses the obvious question up front: “Why bother with all the fuss for just me?” Her answer equates to, basically, Why not treat yourself before you get hitched, have kids and get stuck making casseroles for the rest of your life? Self-indulgence comes in worse forms than laying out a table with veal kidneys in mustard sauce and homemade panna cotta (Italian cream and gelatin dessert) with maple syrup for a party of one.
The initial drawback of this book is the cost involved with its many upscale ingredients and Jones' expensive cookware recommendations. A lot of cookbooks on the shelves right now seem to cater to people with no time and/or no substantial grocery budget, but Jones assumes her readers have both. Le Crueset pans and Spanish saffron don’t come cheap. In order to prepare the meals exactly as she specifies there has to be a sizable investment up front.
Once you've gotten the high-end ingredients together, however, Jones shows you how to make the most of them. She piggybacks meals on top of one another; for instance, incorporating leftover bits of cooked lamb in a fine hash the next day. All in all, it's a good read and a time-consuming alternative to watching reality show reruns by yourself.
(Knopf, hardcover, $27.95)