Image: Scarlett Johansson eating pasta with what looks like pesto. Image Source.
It shouldn’t be a revolutionary thing to announce, and yet: I really, really like dining alone. Studies – always there when you need them – have shown that this does not make me a weirdo, it makes me part of growing, trendy majority. Back in 2014, Colin Fassnidge was doing it. Online surveys showed that restaurant bookings for one were no longer the punchline of romantic comedies, but possibly the apex of human existence.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m also a champion of passive company. Ideally, there would be an entire, delicious restaurant, with only tables for one and booze listed in order of best bargain/prettiest label ratio. All of my friends would sit near me, but not eat with me. I could have solitude but at arm’s’ length, one way to make sure it never becomes loneliness, I guess. Luckily, in 2017, somebody has already thought of everything (because humanity is just not that unique) and in Amsterdam, the recently opened Eenmaal serves only solo diners in a manifestation of minimalism that goes one step further than a ‘stripped-back’ decor. Listicles exist in their hundreds, citing what restaurants are best for eating fries without the interruption of somebody else’s chewing. Going further back, I am in love with this theory, originating in Fukuoka, Japan, which instigates that isolation intensifies flavour. It’s happening. It has happened.
Yet, there is still pity and, for what feels like eternity: sexism. The two things people love to feel more than anything else. Walk into a bar, or restaurant, alone and you’ll get the tilted head stare and that squashed, ‘poor you’ mouth; like the pout, but even more annoying. Worse still, dare to dine alone and a certain kind of man will continually apparate* into your personal space, winking and grinning in the way only direct benefactors of the patriarchy can.
Food is delicious and important. Conversation can really get in the way of how delicious and important it is. Watching the world go by – a polite way of saying ‘staring at other people’ – is also a pleasure that has long-since been formalised as an artform. Considering the overwhelming amount of books that there are to read, I like to feel like I’m making headway at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t even get me started on podcasts; will they replace friendships one day? Possibly. Kidding, but also, there are a lot of very good podcasts. Or, you can be really brave, and do absolutely nothing but eat. These are all really great reasons to enjoy your happy hour chicken schnitty, (craft) pint and extra gravy alone.
Yes, I acknowledge that the only downside to solo dining is that, in certain restaurants, you can’t order as many sharing plates as you’d like. The solution to this, I’ve always found, is to order them anyway. Literally nothing is stopping you. I’m hopeful that in the future, when it is fully realised that things are better done alone, sharing plates will be reduced to a size that is for one person, not a stupid couple. Sorry, sorry. Not all couples are stupid. But let’s be honest: in public, most of them are. Plus, you know what’s better than sharing food with someone? Eating half now and then eating the rest later.
Seriously, though. There’s still something rebellious about eating by yourself. Do it this week! Feel free to wave at me from a distance. But please, don’t come over.
*yes, this is a Harry Potter neologism.