This a book of heart and guts: not the recipes, but the rest. Many people, especially in our social media landscape, wear their busyness as a badge of pride – frantic with work, partner, kids, a packed social life, must-do travel – as if not being busy equates to not being important. It takes guts therefore to declare that a solo life, a child-free, mid-age life of relative solitude in a small seaside settlement, is your perfection. When COVID lockdowns ended a seemingly glamorous job as food editor for New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Nici hunkered down in her bach with just her cat and kitchen for comfort and discovered the joy of being alone, freed from social obligations and with the space to choose stillness and quiet. To provide structure to her lockdown life, she began cooking a proper dinner for herself each day, filming with her phone propped on the kitchen windowsill and posting online. This was no-frills cooking, far from the gloss of a curated social feed, albeit performed by a woman with a lifetime spent in food and cooking. Real, but joyous and full of heart, as Nici tells it how it is, laughs and sometimes cries as she cooks. This book has those recipes – simple dishes but packed with down-to-earth tips – many of them recipes for one, as she says, “I may be single, but that doesn’t have to mean missing out on the nurturing quality of homecooked food or the celebration of a simple yet fabulous feast.” Two lamb chops become a shawarma with crunchy salad and herby yoghurt, a bit of pork transforms into caramelised pork clay pot sticky with soy sauce and sesame, and Nici proves that, hell yes, it’s worth making gnocchi or a roast dinner for a solo supper. As much as a book of food, it’s about honesty and open-heartedness and the willingness to listen to what’s right for you, and that humbled me. TRACY WHITMEY