I have a really adorable, small, round table in my kitchen. It faces the windows and looks out over beautiful gardens. But I almost never sit at my table to enjoy the view, because I never, ever sit down at a table to eat.
I’m not sure it’s exclusive to single people, but the concept of communing over a meal is most certainly lost when you’re eating solo. Sitting at a table in silence staring out the window munching on whatever I’ve managed to concoct from my kitchen of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” crossed with “this is going to go bad tomorrow” is a recipe for disaster. The less aware I am of what I’m forcing myself to eat the better.
In college I was a big proponent of eating in bed. Cutting off 12 inches of hair was critical for making sure I no longer got food in it while lying prone and having dinner. Why stop watching movies or TV shows to eat? What is the point, really?
And what’s the point of trying new restaurants by yourself? Sitting there in a booth or a table quietly waiting for your food and watching others who are having conversations and laughing. It’s a bit weird, and the few times I’ve been brave enough to try eating out alone I never take my phone, refusing to be one of those forever socially dependent people. But believe you me, you run out of things to look at in a restaurant when you’re sitting by yourself.
I had one friend tell me she takes a notebook and paper to solo dining experiences so she looks like a food critic. I’m sure it’s a wonderful way to ensure a great meal, I just don’t have the courage. I also believe that if I’m going to go out and be single in public I need to do so baldly and obviously. It’s not embarrassing to be single, and it’s not something to cover up.
Then again, I never eat out alone in public. So I suppose even for my own criteria I’m a bit of a failure.
There’s so many rites and rituals with eating in a group of people. Because they’re rare, Sunday dinners are a favorite time of mine, now. I sit with loved ones gathered around the table, and sometimes for hours, enjoy conversations that range over the gamut of life and experience.
There is something special about eating with others, something almost supernatural because the communication it generates happens in no other group setting. No other activity outside of a meal has the ability to catch us off-guard, make us amenable to those we sit with, make us prone to linger, to share stories, make us willing to listen, to encourage, to critique, to think broadly or in-depth. And because we’re gathered over food, and not a social activity, our interests and experiences can be more varied and the stories we share more diverse creating unique opportunities for growth.
As a kid I remember family meals mostly being defined by what happened after the meal. Eating cookie dough from a communal bowl kept in the fridge. Or, more frequently, playing pinochle and learning how to win and lose gracefully — something we all still struggle with.
Don’t get me wrong, I love eating in front of the TV. I love eating standing up and doing different things around my apartment, but the blessing that I most receive from eating alone is learning to value much more what it means to eat in a community.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that singleness can add a layer of gratitude for community. Conversely, community gatherings are often an occasion for me to celebrate the solitude I so enjoy and look forward to. Not least of which because no one notices if I get food in my hair, or on my shirt, or bothers to mention if I have two servings, or three, of mozzarella sticks.