How do you feel about going out and eating alone?
I know that a lot of people feel awkward about it. There are so many potential pitfalls. Is it okay to read a book or newspaper at the table in a restaurant? What about writing in a notebook? Is a laptop okay or is that a bit obnoxious? An iPad? Headphones?
What about the actual meal – should you bother taking the time to have a starter? Is it okay to drink wine alone? Will the waiter think you’re a total fatty if you eat that WHOLE tiramisu that was really meant for two?
I’m going to break with convention a little, and say that I LOVE eating out alone.
It is a very rare occurrence these days. Occasionally I’ll sit down for a coffee in town after dropping DorkySon at nursery, if I’m waiting for the post office or the dry cleaners to open. But I can’t remember the last time I sat down for a full meal in a restaurant, by myself, alone.
(Actually I can. It’s just come back to me as I was writing this post. I had lunch alone in Pizza Express in Harpenden on the day that I found the flat we now live in. I had a chicken salad, a large glass of white wine and an espresso, before calling DorkyDad to tell him I’d found somewhere and calling the letting agent to tell them we’d take it. It was a sunny day, so I sat in the window. And I definitely had my iPad on the table because there was free WiFi. Anyway, I digress…)
Pre-DorkySon I ate out by myself a fair bit. DorkyDad travelled a lot for work, and by day three or four of his trips away I would tire of my own cooking and decide to splurge a little.
There was a perfect place for solo dining just up the road from us in Edinburgh, called Toast. They provided plenty of small tables, so you could tuck away without feeling like you were taking up too much space and losing them custom from larger parties. They also provided a huge rack of magazines and newspapers that would keep even the slowest of eaters going for hours.
I probably broke all the rules of eating-alone-etiquette. I always had three courses. I always had a glass of wine. (Sometimes even two!) And I always stayed for coffee.
If I was in the middle of a good book anyway, I’d take one along and keep reading it, but I never used it as a prop to keep people away. I would quite often just sit there, watching the world going by and thinking. It was blissful. It didn’t make me feel awkward at all.
These days, eating alone usually means a lunchtime sandwich at the kitchen table, or if DorkyDad is out at night then a bowl of pasta after DorkySon has gone to bed. But the lessons of my solo dining days have stayed with me, and I still try to take time over meals. The temptation is always there to multitask – to check email or unload the dishwasher at the same time – but I think mindful eating is important. Taking the time to pause, breathe, and taste three times a day is important, and whether it’s in public or private, alone or in company, it shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable.
Food is meant to be fun. Right?
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