I've never dined alone before - this statement doesn't count the hours I while away in coffee shops, the sushi I grab for my lunch or the food eaten al desko - to qualify, this statement relates solely to evening restaurant dining; table for one, ALONE. And something I experienced first hand last night.
Don't wheel out the violins and women beating their chests just yet; this wasn't through a total shunning from my nearest and dearest, a work related enforcement, or the fact I have no friends - I merely chose to go to a restaurant, get a table for one and eat alone. Nothing strange about that, I needed food, I didn't want to cook and I fancied being somewhere warm/loud/jolly. From their faces, I don't think the other diners shared this sentiment, but stuff 'em (please excuse my French).
Eating solo (that sounds rude doesn't it?) has its advantages; I was practically poured over by the staff, I managed to distinguish and remember every part of every dish (a feat, I have more than destroyed my brain cells over the years), I relaxed and read my book. At the end the Chef even came to speak to me and illicit my feelings on each and every dish (well, we all like to be made to feel special).
I could eat lazily, quickly, slowly; it really didn't matter when I dropped food on myself and I was spared the poor eating habits or monotonous conversations that are so readily found when dining with companions. I was contemplative, I was relaxed, I planned my entire weeks' work, I read three chapters of my book. I was productive, it felt good.
That gllowing testement is a strong argument for eating alone; but, even after all this praise, would I fly solo again? I may be a lover of food and this intimate tete a tete gave me time to savour each morsel: the experience certainly wasn't disagreeable - but, and here is the but of all buts - food has always been a sociable activity for me; talking, comparing, giving, nicking off each others' plates. I come from one of those families where my mother would make sandwiches for my friends who came to pick me up for a night out (but they're not even coming in, I'd wail uselessly) and I too, feel the need to feed random strangers who call at my home and worry if young men in shops are eating properly. In a restaurant I may focus on the food rather more than your average punter, but I relish the bonhomie that comes from sharing something you are passionate about with someone you know - for me to truly enjoy food, I need some enjoyable company.