how to eat alone
Eating alone isn’t as solemn as it claims to be.

Creator of the Eat This Poem blog, Nicole Gulotta pairs food-focused poetry with recipes she’s developed over the years. Now she’s released a book with the same title, and the collection of poems and recipes are a breath of fresh air in the cookbook realm. Gulotta reflects on solo dining with the poem How to Eat Alone by Daniel Halpern and concludes that the normally solemn occasion is an opportunity to treat oneself.

Reprinted with permission from Eat This Poem

How to Eat Alone

by Daniel Halpern

While it’s still light out
set the table for one:
a red linen tablecloth,
one white plate, a bowl
for the salad
and the proper silverware.
Take out a three-pound leg of lamb,
rub it with salt, pepper and cumin,
then push in two cloves
of garlic splinters.
Place it in a 325-degree oven
and set the timer for an hour.
Put freshly cut vegetables
into a pot with some herbs
and the crudest olive oil
you can find.
Heat on a low flame.
Clean the salad.
Be sure the dressing is made
with fresh dill, mustard
and the juice of hard lemons.
Open a bottle of good late harvest zinfandel
and let it breathe on the table.
Pour yourself a glass
of cold California chardonnay
and go to your study and read.
As the story unfolds
you will smell the lamb
and the vegetables.
This is the best part of the evening:
the food cooking, the armchair,
the book and bright flavor
of the chilled wine.
When the timer goes off
toss the salad
and prepare the vegetables
and the lamb. Bring them out
to the table. Light the candles
and pour the red wine
into your glass.
Before you begin to eat,
raise your glass in honor
of yourself.
The company is the best you’ll ever have.

As a foil to the vision of a lonely writer subsisting on tuna fish sandwiches or canned beans in order to support his craft, we are offered a far more indulgent alternative, one that requires no less than three pounds of lamb and two bottles of wine. Instructions are presented so enthusiastically that even the most extroverted reader who prefers the company of others should feel inspired to enjoy an evening alone.

While cooking a meal for one, perhaps we are not as isolated as we think. Once the lamb has been rubbed in spices, the carrots chopped, and the roast placed in the oven, we’re instructed to spend time reading in our study. Here, creative spirits who fuel our work also join us for the evening, and we nurture the mind before filling the belly.

♦♦♦

Moroccan-Roasted Lamb With Herb Yogurt

The smell of cumin, garlic, and coriander wafting through the house is a satisfying one, especially if you’re holding a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other, as the poem suggests. A small amount of preparation will yield personal time—at least an hour and a half—to read or write while the lamb surrenders to the heat of the oven. Be sure to cut the potatoes and carrots in small pieces so they’re tender by the time the lamb has finished cooking.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 1⁄2 to 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 6 to 7 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • Herb Yogurt, to serve (recipe follows)

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Toast the cumin, peppercorns, coriander, and cardamom in a small skillet over low heat until fragrant; remove from the heat and pulse in a spice or coffee grinder until finely ground. Place in a bowl with the salt and 3 tablespoons of oil; stir.
  1. Unroll the lamb and place it in a large baking dish or on a cutting board. Pour the marinade over the top and massage it into the meat with your hands. Stuff the garlic cloves inside, then roll the lamb shoulder back up and secure with kitchen twine.
  1. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over high heat in a large Dutch oven. Gently place the lamb in the pan and sear for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. (Open the windows so the smoke can stumble out, if needed.) Remove the lamb and scatter the carrots, onions, and potatoes in the pan. Season with a large pinch of salt and stir the vegetables before placing the lamb on top. Roast for 1 to 1 1⁄4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (medium rare) or 160°F (medium). Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  1. To serve, cut thick slices of the lamb and serve alongside a scoop of vegetables and a dollop of Herb Yogurt.

Herb Yogurt

After the lamb goes into the oven, make the yogurt sauce so the flavors have time to blend.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
  • Parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Scoop the yogurt into a bowl and add the mint, parsley, dill, and lemon zest and juice. Stir well, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until the lamb is done, and stir vigorously to loosen before serving.