Table For One

Don’t feel sorry for that woman dining alone. It might be a choice.

I remember so clearly my first time.

I had access to a fully equipped kitchen in the home where I had rented a room. I was 20 years old, student teaching in a Philadelphia suburb.

Coming from a large family, I knew how to cook. After a stressful first day at the local high school, I came home and took to my first meal.

Spaghetti for one.

I used a cast iron skillet to brown the meat, added it to seasoned tomato sauce in another pot, boiled water for the pasta, made a tossed salad, and toasted garlic bread in the oven.

An hour later, I had my first solo meal, and a sink full of dirty things.

I never cooked there again.

louisabel-truchetlelapinagilemontmartre

French Impressionist. Abel-Truchet.

I found a few local restaurants, a friendly diner, some take-out options.

The first time I went alone to a restaurant for dinner, I took some school paperwork with me.

I was uncomfortable.

Somehow, I was sure folks were looking at me and making judgments. So I found a way to look busy, preoccupied.

After a few days of that, I gave up, learned to relax. I ordered proudly from the menu, enjoyed the solitude, digested better.

There was a bonus that I hadn’t considered. I could be the one watching, listening to casual conversations, observing couples, families, other solitary diners. I found it fascinating.

I was hooked on the experience. And I continued to find ways to dine alone for the rest of my life.

Having a family, I found that lunch was the ideal time. I was a stay at home mom who didn’t always stay at home. The husband was at work, the kids were in school, I was on my own for a few hours a day.

11-woman-eating-alone-painting-w710-h473

16th Century Artist. Jan Bruegel.

It was a treat to myself. I did not choose fast food, I had a dining-out experience, someone would be cooking for me.

There was a lot of seafood, something the family did not really enjoy.

The best was from Charleston, SC.

I would go to the barrier islands around the city, get shrimp taken directly from boats docked in the adjacent harbor, walk the sandy beaches, and return home re-energized.

Good times.

*****************************************************

Post inspired by a scene from the movie Moonstruck where Olympia Dukakis is asked “Signora Castorini, you dining alone tonight?”

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112 Responses to Table For One

  1. colinandray says:

    Good for you! Our world would appear to be so “designed” around couples, that it is easy to feel rather isolated if single……. and yet, as you note so well. it can open up a whole new world of experiences (and some self indulgence… which is always valid!). πŸ™‚

  2. The V Pub says:

    I enjoyed meals for one very much. It was a contemplative time for me. Beautiful post, Van.

  3. Sue Vincent says:

    On one fabulous day, when I had both the money and a real reason to celebrate, I took myself to a swish place on the Champs Elysee in Paris and dined alone, odering without looking at the proces…a once in a lifetime experience. It took a while for the head waiter to realise I was not waiting for a date who wasn’t coming…after that I was well looked after πŸ™‚

  4. Sawsan says:

    LOVE the movie. ..
    Love every painting you posted here.
    And I’m with you, to get the chance to dine alone is a treat.

  5. Deb says:

    Oh boy those lunches you took sound wonderful, fresh fish, fresh air, fresh mind!! What a smart lady you are Van!! πŸ™‚

  6. Ah yes…..this post speaks to me. Having a houseful of hungry mouths, when this mom gets out alone she wants to dine and listen to everyone else’s hustle and bustle. And when I get home I don’t have a sink full of those damned dishes! Additionally, the head chef likes to be cooked for too!

  7. I love this! And I so get it. So much so that I assign solo flights (without phones) to my students as a stress management exercise. My favourite solo flight is going alone to movies. Reflection & relaxation at its best! 🎬🌿

  8. Good for you! Definitely Me Time in the truest sense.
    I did a post on being suddenly single shortly after I started my blog. I was surprised how awkward Hubby felt dining alone.
    https://pensitivity101.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/just-the-one-please/

  9. Sounds great, I also eat alone and do really enjoy the time, the taste and pure enjoyment of pleasing and caring for myself…………..would highly recommend

  10. I love this. That you did this. And wrote about it so I can envision it.

  11. Nurse Kelly says:

    That’s so interesting that you did that! I love your attitude! I travel often for work, so I’m used to eating by myself, but it’s usually in hotel restaurants only or I just order room service. It still makes me uncomfortable, though! I don’t mind being alone in coffee shops, been doing that since college days, but there’s something about eating alone that bothers me.

  12. kingmidget says:

    My first job out of law school required a lot of solo travel throughout California. And not just day trips, but trips of two, three and four days. While out of town, I dined alone. I’d take some reading material, watch the world go by while I sat at my table, enjoy the peace and quiet of a meal undisturbed by the minute details of the days events.

    My wife couldn’t understand how I could go out to dinner by myself. I don’t understand how people can not go out to dinner by themselves every now and then.

    I left that job and the travel far behind years ago, but I still look for opportunities for that quiet time that comes with dining alone. When my wife announces she has plans that will take her away from our dinners together, I have to hide my glee at the idea of a dinner alone — of finding a restaurant to hole up in with a book and a good beer and the world passing by. Or a dinner at home with music in the background and the opportunity to make a dish just for me. My wife will never understand that but there are so many things good about that alone time.

  13. TanGental says:

    there’s this silly British short film – Dinner for One – made in 1963 that hardly anyone in the Uk has ever heard about but go to Germany or Poland or Scandinavia (all over) and you’ll find it takes pride of place on December 23rd in many countries. It is the most repeated tv programme ever according to wiki. Heaven knows why. See what you think https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lzQxjGL9S0

  14. Erika Kind says:

    It can definitely be a choice. I am the same. I love being by myself, enjoying the me-time, watching the world around me without the need of talking. I often go on vacation just by myself for some days in order to let “myself” speak to me and give me the time to listen or just allow myself to only do thigs I want to do. I have never felt lonely because I like the person I am with when I am by myself!

  15. Love the paintings! I started dining out alone on business trips. I felt odd at first. It became more comfortable with it as time went on and now I enjoy it. 🍱

  16. My husband once had to eat alone in a hotel on business on Valentine’s Day. I think it was a swift chow down 😁

  17. Joyful2bee says:

    I am single and retired. Although I eat out with friends two to three times a week, I too enjoy eating by myself. There is no awkward silences, no embarrassment when I drop something, or have trouble cutting a steak or seems of salad leaves. Lol. I bring my Kindle with Wifi and play Sudoku or read. Very relaxing and pleasant. Thanks for sharing.

  18. C.E.Robinson says:

    Love this post, Van! A bit sad when people are not comfortable with themselves…period! That goes along with dining alone, shopping alone, walking alone, etc! Yep, I’m a comfortable loner at times! πŸ’›Christine

  19. I love eating solo and people watching. It suits my otherworldly imagination. I like dining with others too but there is something freeing about dining out on ones own.

  20. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    I absolutely enjoy eating alone, focusing on my food and a good book. Very relaxing!

  21. Sometimes, it’s nice to spend time with oneself. It’s also fun to people watch. πŸ™‚

  22. Wow wonderful memories and thoughts van xx

  23. Sounds wonderful, Van. What a treat! Jan Breugel’s painting is perfect.

  24. LaVagabonde says:

    A friend and I were just talking about this yesterday. It was related to women traveling solo. Eating in restaurants part is the most difficult part for every solo female traveler I’ve ever met. It’s not because we feel lonely. It’s because of the looks of pity that we get. Good for you for luxuriating in time with yourself.

  25. Bun Karyudo says:

    I don’t eat in restaurants by myself very much, but I do quite often have a chance to “people watch” in coffee shops. I also find them quite good places to get ideas for writing topics too.

  26. Well done, Van. I love the way you built the experience up. Turning something uncomfortable to your advantage is something of a gift. We should do it more often.

  27. George says:

    Funny how people don’t think twice about a man eating alone but a woman always gets second or third glances with associated questions. I loved your story and how you placed a very different spin on this thought..:)

  28. Lady G says:

    I feel you on this one Van! I absolutely enjoy the peace of dining alone from time to time πŸ™‚
    BTW, Charleston has some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten πŸ™‚

  29. dgkaye says:

    Very interesting spin on this Van. I lived on my own for many years and never thought twice about eating alone, at my leisure, cooked what and when I wanted to. But something about eating alone in a restaurant always made me feel uncomfortable. πŸ™‚

  30. Steph McCoy says:

    Dining or relaxing in solitude at a cafe is, well, relaxing. Putting away the electronic devices and just taking in the surroundings is pleasurable. I remember seeing a funny Facebook post not too long ago “I saw a guy at Starbucks today. He had no smartphone, tablet, or laptop. He just sat there drinking his coffee. Like a psychopath.”

  31. blinkingcat says:

    When I was young and single I loved to eat out alone. I come from a large family and there was always someone trying to steal food off my plate. When I was older and working in a corporate office I loved to eat alone because there was not a single person making a demand of me, and I could find a moments peace during the middle of my day. These days I am a stay at home mom. If I get to eat alone it is standing in the garage trying to eat some kind of cookie without having to share with the kid and hubby.

    • You just triggered a memory of trying to get that last spoon of mashed potatoes, or how we fought over a single pork chop. When we went out to eat as a family of 8, we always tasted each others food…that drives folks crazy who didn’t have to do that. ☺ Thanks for sharing, cat. πŸ’œ

  32. polymath0 says:

    This is fantastic. I’ve done the same thing and also wondered what people must think of me. Sometimes, I can think of nothing I want more than to go out and order exactly what I want off the menu, usually something my husband would never eat for dinner such as scallops and brussels sprouts, add a cocktail and a good book. It worried me at first that people would judge me, but I became quite comfortable.

  33. I know how it feels for the first time. I went alone to a cafe and I was alone. It was back in my college days. Maa (mother) was not at home and I was not in a mood to prepare something for myself. People were looking at me with a strange expression on their faces… I really felt uncomfortable. But, now, I feel at ease even when I have to go for a solo lunch or snacks and coffee… People still watch but I just don’t care… πŸ˜€

  34. lbeth1950 says:

    This sounds so lovely. I love eavesdropping and people watching. People say and do such interesting things. While I was in the doctor’s office one day, a woman came out and picked up a stack of magazines, after checking to see if office was watching.

  35. This really struck a chord as I’ve always hated eating out alone. Nowadays it’s easier because of being able to fiddle with a phone, but I still have to steel myself to look relaxed (let alone feel it). I sometimes wonder if it’s a last bastion of male privilege as men tell me they don’t find it hard, but it may just be all in my over self conscious mind.

    • It sometimes depends on the location. I wouldn’t go out to an intimate setting on a Saturday night, for example. Certain places here in the U.S. are frequented mostly by women, often alone. Like Panera Bread…the lure of fresh bread, soup and sandwich with a WIFI connection…it eases in the transition to dining alone. Thanks, Jessica. πŸ’› πŸ’™ πŸ’œ

  36. I enjoy doing this even now. I loved going to my fave cafes as a single girl, reading my novel and eavesdropping, now I take the time to go by myself without the distraction of husband and children. I enjoyed this post, Van. Makes me smile and yes, I’ll probably indulge in this treat later this week πŸ˜‰

  37. Nothing like the contentment of a fine meal, with your best friend, yourself.

  38. Great essay! My mom always said it’s fine to go solo for a good meal. A great notion–especially in Europe!

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  40. joey says:

    I didn’t dine out alone until I was a mom with all her kids in school, but I hadn’t thought about that til now. There were always friends or colleagues or roommates…
    But I don’t mind to eat alone. Not at all. Sometimes I’ll make something fantastic for myself, and sometimes I’ll treat myself to lunch.
    I have a friend who will not be seen alone in a restaurant. If we’re meeting up, she will wait in her car so no one thinks she’s alone. I’ve never felt that way, but I think it must be pretty common.

  41. ladycee says:

    What a lovely idea – to turn dining alone into a “pamper” and people-watching experience! Kills 2 birds with one stone.

  42. megdekorne says:

    I so identify , my wondrous friend ! …hugs

  43. Pingback: Featured Posts – Share Your Post Links | a cooking pot and twistedtales

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