My old friend has a new blog. I’ve mentioned Chef Cory in the past, and now with his co-pilot Megan, he’s eating a lot of white pizza in the City of Angels. Yes, it’s ridiculous. That’s kind of the point.
The stories go up on bingeworthy.com and they are worth a read.
Well for some reason, Cory is expanding the editorial mission of the blog to include some op/ed pieces. And very soon he’s going to write one on eating alone. So he asked me for my thoughts. There’s only one problem. I’m no good at giving short answers. Luckily I have a platform where I can expand at length on such matters.
Maybe Cory can find the one interesting thing I have to say on the matter and lift a quotation for his upcoming blog post. Because before I could even think about answering it, I need to clarify one underlying issue, and it has nothing to do with food or eating.
When the mood strikes me, I can be a pretty social guy. But I love being alone.
There are some people who will just never get this. These are the individuals who are fraught with anxiety about going to see a movie by themselves, or those who always need to have something to do.
It’s a rare occasion for me, but I love sitting out on the porch on a comfortable fall night with a cigar, a glass of whiskey and my thoughts. Yes, these kinds of experiences are also fun with close friends. But it’s different when you’re by yourself.
Eating with friends and loved ones is great. We have a family dinner almost every night of the week. Sharing incredible things to eat with other people is one of my great joys. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t also like eating alone. Because I do.
I like it a lot. Here are just a few of the benefits to dining alone.
1. Let Your Freak Flag Fly
In general I have pretty good table manners. But lately, I’ve developed a bad habit. Actually, it seems to be a bit of an epidemic that’s sweeping the country. When food arrives at the table I’m compelled to photograph it. There’s another story there, which I’ll save for a later date. However, I understand some people find it obnoxious. If you go to eat with fellow food bloggers, it’s expected. In mixed company, though, it’s dicey.
2. Focus on the Food
You know that saying then when someone loses a sense, the other ones get stronger? Well, I think when you are mindfully and actively listening to your dining companions, your sense of smell and taste diminish. I’m kind of joking, but there’s a grain of truth to it. It’s probably considered rude to put your conversation on hold while you sniff, contemplate, and evaluate a glass of wine. If your tablemates don’t consider you rude, they’ll at least label you a pretentious a-hole. But there’s a lot to take in at a restaurant, and there are plenty of diners who miss most of it.
3. Set Your Own Pace
People eat too quickly. I’ve been engaged in an effort over the course of several years to slow down my pace at the table. ADS used to take the longest to finish a plate of food. Now, I may have taken the lead. Not only is it a more healthful way to eat, but it also increases the enjoyment and pleasure that you take in your food. Far too few people feel that way, and sometimes I get rushed towards the end of a meal or a course.
4. Order and Eat What You Want
Certainly there are pros and cons to this. Sometimes a menu will be filled with appealing options, and you want to try them all. Then, it’s great to have lots of people around to order a variety of dishes and get to sample many different flavors. Other times there is really only the one thing you really want, yet your companions are still hoping you’ll exchange bites. This, incidentally, is one of the problems that tasting menus are great for solving. So find a place with one of these and go there.
5. Sending Back Food Doesn’t Ruin the Meal
Sometimes something comes out of the kitchen wrong. It slips through the quality control checkpoints and makes it to your table. Most of the time I don’t send things back. AOA Greg probably doesn’t believe this since he’s seen me send back two hamburgers on two separate occasions in two different restaurants. And we’ve only eaten out a handful of times. But one reason why I just suck it up and don’t send a dish back is because by the time it’s remade, everyone else is done with their meals. Also recall that I’m a slow eater in the first place. It’s just not pretty, nor is it enjoyable.
I could easily go on for another thousand words or so. But those who are comfortable being alone are probably into eating alone. And those who aren’t will not be convinced by a blog post.
Although it is something everyone should try, even if it’s beyond their comfort zone. I think it helps to think of it as a treat as opposed to a punishment. You are not dining out alone because you are lonely or have no friends. No, you are dining out alone because you are going to treat yourself to a night of hedonistic pleasures, and the entirety of the experience is about you and nobody else.
It is totally a rare and inherently selfish treat. But it’s totally worth it.