AILSA CHANG, HOST:
This is the season when blogs and food magazines are filling up with recipes for a crowd - stuffing that serves six, mashed potatoes for eight, a turkey dinner to feed 12. But this next segment is for the many, many people out there who find themselves on Thanksgiving - or really any night of the year - cooking for one. Rather than having to cut meals meant for two in half or make a full pot of chili and eat it all week long, now we finally have a book full of recipes just for those times when we are alone. The book is called "Solo: A Modern Cookbook For A Party Of One." And the author, Anita Lo, joins us now to talk about it. Hey there.
ANITA LO: Hi.
CHANG: Well, first of all, I love how you started this book. I'm going to read it aloud right here. It says (reading) I've been dumped almost as many times as I've been in relationships, and I can count those on less than two hands. Spread over my 50-year lifespan, that's a lot of solo meals.
OK, that line triggered so many flashbacks for me.
CHANG: But that is how you mastered cooking for one, right?
LO: Well (laughter) that might have been an overstatement, but it's - food has saved me in many instances like that. There was one time where I was dumped by a girlfriend of - I want to say - two years. Yeah, I was devastated. I was really devastated. And my parents came to town, and they took me out to dinner, and we went for my first kaiseki meal.
LO: Yeah, which is, like, a fancy Japanese meal. And I had all of these things I had never had before. And I was so devastated at that point, but, like, in that meal, I was like, oh, my God, this is so cool. You know, I just sort of felt rejuvenated.
CHANG: Like, food can be an escape. And even if you are alone at home, that can be empowering. Like, it can be awesome cooking for yourself.
LO: Yeah. I mean, food is culture. Food is identity. So it's sort of reaffirming to cook the things that, you know, either you grew up with or the things that you love.
CHANG: Yeah, I love that. But, you know, for people who do want to wallow in their loneliness, there's some really good stuff in your book - for example, a recipe called a single broken egg on a bed of torn, wilted, bitter greens with blue cheese. This is, like, a sadness plate. When did you come up with this recipe, like, after a breakup?
LO: (Laughter) No. I actually - I probably came up with this recipe for this book, but I had many of those types of recipes over the years at Annisa for Valentine's Day.
CHANG: That was the first restaurant that you owned as a chef?
LO: Yes. And actually, you know, I always thought Valentine's Day was sort of a cheesy Hallmark holiday.
CHANG: So overrated.
LO: Yeah. But you always have to have a special menu. So I always had plenty of things with, like, hearts and, you know, passionfruit and stuff like that. But then I always wanted to have a dish for the lonely person, like a monkfish.
CHANG: A celibate monkfish.
LO: Right (laughter) yeah, with extra virgin olive oil.
CHANG: (Laughter) What is it about cooking for oneself that's such a hard mountain to climb? I mean, is it only the trouble, or is there some deeper, psychological block?
LO: Yeah. I think it actually is a deeper, psychological block. You know, everyone says like, oh, why would I go through all that trouble for just myself? Why not? You can't give to other people and share with other people if you're not taking care of yourself. And it's nice to be able to eat exactly what you want.
CHANG: OK, so now that we have established that cooking alone does not mean you are sad and pathetic, we have asked you to suggest a couple of Thanksgiving recipes for one.
LO: Well, in my book, there is a broiled squab with roasted carrots and carrot top zhoug. I'm probably pronouncing it improperly, but it's a spicy condiment from the Middle East. But what's great about this recipe - it is a whole bird.
CHANG: It's a little bird.
LO: It's a little bird.
CHANG: A little, miniature bird, yeah.
LO: Yeah. It's very fall. You know, it's root vegetables, and squab is sort of celebratory. I think it - it's not hard to do, but it's a little bit more chef-y (ph) at some level.
CHANG: Are you allowed to gnaw on a squab drumstick?
LO: Oh, yeah.
LO: I think you're supposed to, actually, yeah.
LO: When I was working at Chanterelle, we would just sit there and gnaw on the carcasses.
CHANG: Oh, I love it. And, hey, if you're eating by yourself, who cares?
LO: Exactly. No one's watching (laughter).
CHANG: Chef Anita Lo - her new book is "Solo: A Modern Cookbook For A Party Of One" - thank you so much for joining us.
LO: Thanks for having me on.
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