“In general, I think, human beings are happiest at the table when they are very young, very much in love, or very alone.” – M.F.K. Fisher
There are few things more empowering than dining alone. I’m not talking about the ol’ bowl of cereal in front of a 30 Rock marathon (although there is a time for that), but the activity of visiting a restaurant in a party of one. Taking yourself on a date might seem silly, but the rewards of this solitary experience are tenfold.
Food writer and environmental journalist Simran Sethi has traveled extensively and is quite familiar with the hotel room dinner. She avoided restaurants for a while, saying she “was always ashamed to go to a restaurant alone and ask for a table for one.” I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t empathize.
But then she gave it a shot. In an interview with NPR, Sethi reveals this initial exploration of dining alone, and how she found the experience rewarding. Sethi was able to focus on the food, noticing the intimate details of its flavor. She struck up a conversation with those surrounding her, making new friends that she might have otherwise neglected.
So what makes eating alone a treat? NPR explores the concept:
Some people eat alone grudgingly. But a table for one can also be a “third place” where one goes by choice to be alone among others. The term “third place” was initially coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place and inspired immensely successful hangouts like Starbucks and Panera.
In other words, sometimes we choose to enjoy the energy of strangers while still relishing in our own solitude.
Sethi also notes the pleasure of focusing on one’s food. When dining alone, we eliminate one (albeit, sometimes pleasant) distraction from mealtime: listening and answering. Instead, our senses hone into the nourishment that sits before us. We drag our bread through olive oil, noticing the earthy green hue that coats the fluffy interior. The crunch of charred broccoli hums through our mouths. We slurp and oyster and taste the ocean.
And there are even more perks to dining alone. Solitary eaters are able to witness the world go by, quietly observing the rhythm of the restaurant. Maybe we let go of any pressure to entertain a date, friend, or coworker. If that wasn’t enough, eating alone ignites our confidence.
From Elite Daily:
It takes strong and self-assured people to eat alone. They aren’t socially perverse, but socially enlightened…It’s not that they can’t get the company of others, but rather, they don’t need the company of others. They are confident enough to go to dinner alone, to partake in a “social activity” alone and to be around others, completely alone.
Together, the benefits of dining alone create a sense of mindful gratitude. Sethi loves to focus on the story of her meals. She tells NPR, that “every food and drink has a longer, deeper story connected to lands and people we may never see.”
We can find these stories across any restaurant table. Whether it’s a diner, a vegan café, roadside steakhouse, or trattoria, the places we explore reveal our curiosity while fueling confidence.
Simran Sethi celebrates food and the act of dining alone in her new book, Bread Wine, Chocolate. For more information, or to purchase Sethi’s book, visit her website.
Photo via iStock
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet via her blog at cozycaravan.com.