In her latest book, alumna chef Deborah Madison (B.A. sociology, Cowell College, 1968) turns her attention to the secret delights enjoyed by solo diners.

How does a peanut butter and pepper-bacon sandwich sound? Or day-old spaghetti fried up with Swiss cheese?

Madison, founding chef of Greens restaurant and author of several cookbooks, and her husband, Patrick McFarlin, queried fellow foodies, farmers, friends, and strangers to compile What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes, a 272-page exploration of culinary secrets.

Madison, who lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico, was interviewed by the Sacramento Bee during a recent visit to Northern California.

"I don't really see this as a cookbook," Madison told the Bee. "Yes, there are recipes, but they're not driving the book. It's about people."

Described by one reviewer as a "genuinely subversive book," What We Eat When We Eat Alone is the result of a query McFarlin began posing to friends years ago. A YouTube video captures some "confessions."

Madison's previous books include The Greens Cookbook, The Savory Way, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which received awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the James Beard Foundation. She will publish a new collection of dessert recipes in 2010.

Madison was featured in a 1998 Review magazine article about influential UCSC alumni.

After graduating from UCSC, Madison cooked at San Francisco's Zen Center and at Chez Panisse before becoming the founding chef of Greens, the legendary vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco, in 1979. In Santa Fe, she was the founding chef at Café Escalara.