The travails of the lone diner

The weekend is a magical time that somehow makes up for the perils endured in the past five days. Tired of cooking and eating alone in my apartment though out the week, I catch up with friends over lunch or dinner. Be it ordering in a bucket of chicken nuggets and watching movies or tasting pasta ravioli at a fancy restaurant, food is best enjoyed with good company.

Despite meticulous Whatsapp messages, this weekend I was stranded in my home with no soul to talk to. Some are out of town, some still in office and some still under the spell of Hypnos. After having counted every tile on my floor and cleaning the kitchen cabinets for the millionth time, I head out for lunch alone rather than ordering takeaway and wait for ages to get the cold food to be delivered late.

Dining alone in a small, crowded restaurant can actually be quite a blessing. I always get seated immediately bypassing extended families waiting to get in. In such places nobody cares who you came with, all they want is a seat for themselves. But the ostracizing happens in fine dining restaurants.

By fine-dining, I mean the ones where you are expected to use the cutlery and any dish on the menu costs more than a week’s groceries. People dining alone at such places are considered a social pariah and do not be surprised if the waiter marks you in scarlet. If you still ask for a table despite the manager’s insistence of getting a takeaway, you will be kindly escorted to a dingy corner next to the kitchen or the wash area.

Initially while dining alone I felt awkward and pretended I was on the sets of Downtown Abbey. Every clickety-clack of steel against porcelain had to be precise or might attract pitiful stares. I kept my head down in my begging bowl and gulped down the food as soon as it came and left before anyone I knew recognised me.

It was after a few awkward experiences I started noticing people around and observed one thing. Drum rolls.

Nobody bothered to cast a glance at me. Apparently the earth revolved around some ball of gas called the sun and not me.

The only people that end up looking at other tables are disgruntled housewives, sloppy husbands or bored kids. If you find all of these characters in the same table, please refer them to a nice family counsellor.

Once while dining alone, a gentleman kept staring at the food in my table rather than minding his business; no wonder his wife was off in her own thoughts. I tried to ignore the insolent fool and continued eating. When the waiter got the bill, the nosy gentleman peered into it. Sick! My middle finger wanted to say him a hi but I withheld. After a few seconds of deep breathing, I realised pigs like to play in the muck and I did not have to get dirty. I just stared at him long enough to make him uncomfortable and look away before I waltzed out of the restaurant.

Foodgasm!

When I am dining alone my focus is on the food and not on making conversations with people around me. I relish every bite and morsel as it touches by tongue and puts my taste buds into a psychedelic trance. When I am eating alone, I am mindful of every grain that passed through my mouth. It is like listening to my favourite song on headphones and discovering new notes that I had not observed earlier.

Are you a person who likes to dine alone and what were your experiences on your gastronomic adventures?

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