The Act of Eating Alone

I just got back from the farmer’s market, and boy, do my arms smell like beets. We skipped last week’s pickup because of the mountain, so today I had a double pickup and am skipping the usual publishing of the weekly CSA menu plan in favor of waiting for Courtney to get back from band practice so we can discuss what we’re going to cook for our friends later this week.

(Except kimchi, I’m totally using the Napa cabbage for kimchi. I just have to get to Ballard Market soon to see if they have the chili powder and/or salted shrimp, because otherwise I’ve got to coordinate a bus ride to the International District and god help me if there’s a Sounders game today, because I just cannot deal with that.)

I’ve always cooked for myself (and Graham, when he’s home), but with the CSA boxes, I’ve been cooking more than usual. I have to; otherwise, all of this great stuff will go to waste. But I still like going out to eat every now and then, and being 31, childless, and debt-free, it’s one of the few luxuries I can allow myself to have. Weekly, if I want. Cooking is something I love to do, but it’s just so nice to be able to leave your own kitchen, read over a menu, tell someone what you want, and have them bring it to you while you enjoy a cocktail. Perhaps it stems from a childhood of rarely going out to eat but actually going to good places and eating good food when we did, thus teaching me to appreciate the act of eating at a restaurant. Perhaps it also stems from working in restaurants and bars for years, and knowing how decadent it feels to have someone else fuss over you for a change. In any case, I love doing it, so much so that when I feel like going out, I’ll do it alone if I have to.

Nobody gives eating alone enough credit. Sure, there are times when I like going out with Graham, or when I want to share what I’m eating with a friend (and that does not include taking a photo of it because that’s tacky), but going to a restaurant and having a meal by myself can be pretty great. For one, you always get a good seat, and by that, I mean you’re usually sitting at the bar. I love eating at the bar. Service isn’t as clingy (eg, a server asking if everything’s good the second after you shove the first forkful into your mouth) but it’s still attentive, you’re closer to the booze, and you don’t feel as though you’ve been shoved into the middle of a fishbowl by sitting at a table in the dining room.

Second, you don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to interact. You can enjoy the relaxing part of not cooking at home the way you’re meant to enjoy it, which is to say you don’t have to work at anything. As long as the bar isn’t too dim (ahem, Bastille, I loved the roasted carrots with the almond puree and goat cheese mousse, but would it kill you to turn up the pendants a tad?), I can sit by myself, read a book, and sip on some terrific drink made with liqueurs too esoteric and expensive for me to justify keeping at home. When I’m reading by myself with a meal at a nice place, I feel like parents of multiple kids must when they escape the house for fifteen minutes to sit in the McDonald’s drive thru alone.

Third, you can like your meal without having to worry about the other person liking theirs, or feel guilty when they don’t. I think this comes from me cooking a lot and also working in places where I served other people food (and heard about it when they didn’t like it), but I’m always really nervous about how other people experience their meal. Say if I love whatever I ordered but the other person didn’t like the way theirs was cooked or realized it had cilantro in it and they hate cilantro, or any other thing that could throw a wrench in the mechanism of the entire restaurant experience, I feel really shitty and it’s seriously like the whole thing is ruined. Oh, and when I’m out with that one person who always orders the worst thing on the menu? I’ve contemplated just going to the bathroom and hiding there the entire time.

Fourth, I can go at my own pace. I can take as long as I want to eat or pay as quickly as I can, and when I leave, I don’t have to wait for someone else to go to the bathroom or fumble with their things or anything else. People don’t realize how incredible it feels to do things by themselves, or how going out to eat alone is really the highest expression of the entire act.

Graham’s working tonight and the most of this week’s boxes are going towards family dinner, so I think maybe I’ll go out to eat by myself again. I’ve got a new library book. I’ve already done the dishes. It will be nice.

About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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3 Responses to The Act of Eating Alone

  1. McD says:

    I never thought of it like this, but I get what you’re saying. Much better than feeling pathetic for being alone, which is how I usually view it. Also, oops for taunting people on social media with food… good tips tonight – hope you enjoyed dinner!

  2. Carmen says:

    Solo dining is really no big deal, but it’s amazing how many people worry about how they look sitting by themselves in a restaurant. As if the rest of the world really gives a rat’s ass!

    • erineph says:

      Right? Anytime I’ve ever seen anyone eating alone (who is not an old man, for some reason they just break my heart), I think “what a badass.”

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