To celebrate learning that I don’t have tuberculosis (not like I thought I had it…another hoop I had to jump through before starting grad school was having a TB skin test administered, which requires returning to the doctor 48 hours later to have the test read), I stopped by my not-long-for-this-world Borders bookstore again, because they had ramped up their discounts again.

Again, I considered and discarded, considered and discarded. I really wanted to get Richard Olney’s The French Menu Cookbook, but I looked at the recipes and knew I would never make any of them (I need to get a copy of his Simple French Food instead). But my heart went pitter-pat when I saw a single, solitary copy of Judith Jones’ The Pleasures of Cooking for One. So, naturally, I let it follow me home.
Lots of people would like to have known Julia Child, but I would love to know Judith Jones. I mean, come on, this is the woman who rescued The Diary of Anne Frank from a manuscript slush pile and went on to thoughtfully edit some of the most important cookbooks and culinary writings of our time (Julia Child, James Beard, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich, to name a few).
I read and greatly enjoyed Jones’ autobiography, The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, and was similarly besotted with The Pleasures of Cooking for One (both borrowed from the library). The latter book certainly has its practical side. It includes delicious recipes for one, plus recipes that creatively rework leftovers from a previous recipe. Some recipes do make enough leftovers for one more meal, so they would work if you wanted to make dinner for two, with no leftovers. I also like that she includes a few cookie recipes that don’t make a ton of cookies! Because baking is more precise (and more chemistry-like) than cooking, you can’t always take a baking recipe and simply cut it in half (or double it) and expect it to turn out the same. She’s done the testing and adjusting, so we don’t have to!
But more important than the convenience of having some delicious small-scale recipes on hand, what this book really contributes to the world is the promotion and illustration of an important concept: One of the best ways to care for yourself, body and soul, is to cook for yourself. That is why this book makes my heart sing! This is Jones’ response to people who say they enjoy cooking for others, but that it’s too much trouble to cook for themselves:

“If you like good food, why not honor yourself enough to make a pleasing meal and relish every mouthful? Of course, we want to share with others, too, but we don’t always have friends and family around. And I can’t see taking in my neighbors every night.”

Right on. I also love the photos of her kitchen scattered through the book. Not fancy, but neat and functional. It reminds me of my maternal grandmother’s kitchen, a little. Come to think of it, Jones reminds me of my grandmother, a little. My grandmother who introduced me to wonderful things like desserts of fresh nectarine slices with homemade tapioca pudding, and mass transit (when I visited her home in the San Francisco Bay area, we would take BART everywhere…she had a car but rarely used it). Her love of vegetable gardening and sewing passed to my mother, and then to me. But I digress…