Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Art of Eating Alone

Why must there be an art of eating alone? Unfortunately, there still seems to be a stigma, especially for women.

I’ve found myself alone in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and East Lansing recently and it seems as though the staff work to make a normal situation awkward. To begin with, I’m almost always greeted with a hostess who says quizzically, “only one?” “Yes, it’s just me. Is that a problem?”

I’ve been seated in some awkward positions. At an Indian restaurant for dinner in D.C., I was placed at a skinny table for two facing a single man at a similar table which was only inches away. It was as if we were sitting together. At a Mexican restaurant for dinner in East Lansing, I was told, “take one of the very small tables against the back wall.” A man came in behind me, alone, and was given a booth by the window. I checked and I know it isn’t because I smelled.

I could say that you should take a book, work, newspaper, Iphone, etc., with you when you eat alone so you can look busy. Maybe you really do want to read that book or you went out to dinner just to finish that pesky project. But what if you just want to sit quietly and rest while you eat your meal? Surely that’s acceptable in this day and age.

I find that I eat too quickly and often too much when I’m alone at a restaurant. I try to remind myself not to be rushed by the waiter or my over-eager desire to eat the entire oversized portion. Of course, the same happens when I re-heat too much of last night’s dinner.

Enjoy yourself when you go out to eat alone. If there's an art to it, it is the same art that applies to groups: find a good restaurant.


Sun Runner said...

I eat in restaurants alone frequently. I always sit at the bar. I find the atmosphere there to be much more convivial. I have conversations with other patrons as well as the bartender, whereas if I were alone at a table I would have little to do and no one to talk to. At the bar, I'm eating on my schedule; if I have time to spare I let the staff know, but if I need to be on my way they're responsive to that as well. Yes, I do tend to play with my iPhone a lot. That's partly because I'm in love with my iPhone (obsessed is more like it). When faced with a meal out by myself I do gravitate toward establishments I know will have bar seating, such as brewpubs and the like (which also means I can have beer, another one of life's pleasures).

I am going to eat at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe in Ann Arbor by myself tonight, in fact. I'm attending a concert in Ann Arbor and I want to have something to eat before I go. I've been to the JPC enough that I'm becoming a "regular," which is also a nice position to find oneself in when dining alone.

Years ago I dined alone very rarely and always felt uncomfortable doing so. I often took a book with me to avoid looking like an outcast (this was pre-cell phone days). I was also more reticent and less inclined to strike up conversations with random folks. Now I'm much bolder and have no qualms about talking to strangers.

Great post; I really liked it!

Chloe Yelena Miller said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Sun Runner. Those are some great suggestions. Enjoy the concert and dinner at JPC tonight!