Cook the Book: 'What We Eat When We Eat Alone'

20090810whatweeatwhenweeatalone.jpgDeborah Madison calls her new book a humorous book on eaters, but I beg to differ. What We Eat When We Eat Alone is a beautifully illustrated anthropological study that happens to have some great recipes. In What We Eat When We Eat Alone, Madison poses the same question to friends, neighbors, colleagues, restaurant professionals, and total strangers: What do you cook for yourself when you eat alone?

The responses to Madison's query are a testament to Brillat-Savarin's adage tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are. You can tell a lot about people by the meals they choose to make for themselves alone.

The first section of What We Eat When We Eat Alone sets out to define the differences between the meals that men and women make when they are forced to feed themselves at home. One might think female meals are all salad and chardonnay and that the male counterpart consists of beer and burgers. The reality is not so concrete. Madison encountered many women who enjoy nothing more than a very rare steak as well as a fair share of men who embrace a vegetarian diet while at home.

What We Eat When We Eat Alone is a wealth of dirty mealtime secrets. When you aren't catering to other people's tastes you are free to eat exactly what you crave: Spam sandwiches with grape jelly and saltines soaked in milky coffee are meals that Madison's subjects enjoy on a regular basis. Eating alone means eating what you want.

While it's intriguing to read about the strange combinations that some people come up with, What We Eat When We Eat Alone is filled with tasty, quick, and satisfying dishes that have been pared down to feed one but could easily be doubled or even tripled to feed a crowd. The thing that sets all of these recipes apart is that they were created with only one person in mind—no pleasing other people's palates necessary.

Win 'What We Eat When We Eat Alone'

Every day this week we will share a recipe from What We Eat When We Eat Alone. This week's menu will include everything from satisfying solo snacks such as pimento cheese and tuna spread with capers to hearty fortifiers like potato and green chile stew and polenta smothered with braised greens. Fear not, desserts for one will be well-represented; a recipe for chocolate mousse with cardamom seeds will make you think twice before reaching for that pint of ice cream in your freezer.

Thanks to the generosity of the folks over at Gibbs Smith Publishing, we are giving away five (5) copies of What We Eat When We Eat Alone this week. All you have to do is tell us what you eat when you are alone in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, August 24 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.