What We Really Eat When We Eat Alone

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A lot of thought goes into cooking when preparing a meal for a group. But what about when you're eating all by yourself? Sometimes, the rules go out the window.

Host Liane Hansen discusses the quirks of solo dining with Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin, the author and the illustrator of the new book, What We Eat When We Eat Alone.

Excerpt: What We Eat When We Eat Alone

'What We Eat When We Eat Alone'

Kate Manchester, publisher of Edible Santa Fe, takes up the theme of compromise. "Eating alone is nothing less than a luxurious, even decadent, act," she says, "because I get to think about myself. I don't have to think about someone else."

And when the opportunity arrives, she tends to return to her past, which involves seafood since she's from Rhode Island. "I find myself searching for that connection," she says. But because good fish isn't always an option in New Mexico, she has a back-up menu. "If it isn't seafood, I'll make johnny cakes and eat them with syrup and butter. I'd never even think of making them for my boyfriend or eating them when he's here," she reflects. "It's a stolen moment when I can cook for my own palate."

The one-unit meal, like johnny cakes, sidesteps the notion of a square meal with several foods skillfully balancing one another. Food writer Amelia Saltsman, who has no end of beautiful foods available to her from the Santa Monica farmers market, says that, in the end, she may just have a baked potato with butter and salt. "Basically, it's about comforting carbs and good salt," she says.

Kate's stolen moment Johnny cakes


  • 1 cup Kenyon's johnny cake corn meal
  • 1¿2 teaspoon salt1 teas
  • poon sugar1 cup
  • boiling water1 cup
  • milkoil or
  • butter for the griddlebutter
  • maple
  • syrup

Being a native Rhode Islander, Kate knows that a proper johnny cake has to be made with the proper grits, such as those made from Rhode Island White Cap flint corn. She further specifies Kenyon's johnny cake meal (www.kenyongristmill.com) and says that you can use their white or yellow. There seem to be lots of debates over johnny cakes, from the spelling (with or without an "h"), to whether milk or water is used for the liquid, or both. Here is Kate's version.


1. Combine the first three ingredients. Pour boiling water over the mixture very slowly to swell the meal. Let it sit for several minutes, then add enough milk (about 1 cup) so that the mixture will drop from a spoon.

2. Heat a lightly greased pancake griddle or cast-iron skillet and spoon batter onto the hot surface, leaving a few inches between each cake. Cook until golden, then turn to brown the other side, about 3 minutes more. Serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup.

Books Featured In This Story

What We Eat When We Eat Alone

by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin

Hardcover, 272 pages | purchase

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What We Eat When We Eat Alone
Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin

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