Monday, September 22, 2008

on dining alone

i'm on the road again. it's late afternoon and i'm contemplating what to have for dinner. i was only home about 27 hours, pretty much just enough time to unpack, do laundry, repack one suitcase (ok, i admit, i didn't really finish unpacking the other one), make invitations to a halloween party together with sabin and mathilde (and then husband joined in and made some extremely disturbing ones, which i will share later, since i forgot my card reader), go for a walk on the grounds of a nearby castle, finish my book, get some sleep, get up and make a lunch packse for the child (forget to give it to her and have to run it over to the school), go to the post office to mail goodies to my sis and pick up my RVK, which came while i was in singapore, buy some fab new black boots for fall, get myself to the airport, do a quick power shop there for a new fall coat (found a fabulous one at noa noa), grab a grande latte and board my plane. whew, that was actually a lot in 27 hours, no wonder i'm feeling tired.

however, it's now 5:30 p.m. and i'm contemplating some dinner. since i travel a lot, i'm accustomed to dining alone, although i always feel slightly apologetic asking for a table for one. why is that? what is it in us that makes us feel that dining shouldn't be a solitary activity? why does it feel a little teency bit sad to have dinner in a restaurant alone?

i always take something to read with me. and in many ways, i actually quite like the solitude. it's a bit less sad to ask for a solitary seat at a sushi bar (which i did several times last week), so i quite often go for sushi. i would do so anyway, if i'm honest. however, this time, i'm in germany, so i'm thinking sushi isn't really the thing. what does one eat by oneself in germany? a brat? sauerkraut? weinerschnitzel? a bit of spætzel? in my jetlagged state, i'll admit that none of that sounds good.

i find myself dreaming back to my last dinner in singapore. in a lovely sushi restaurant, the name of which escapes me, mostly because i think it wasn't written in english at all, only in japanese.  i sat at the sushi bar and at one point, realized i was lightly humming due to the wonderfulness of the food. because i was by myself, i could ponder japanese aesthetics and how beautifully presented sushi always is. all of the details are just so spot-on. actually, in the same way that danish design in furniture and lamps and such is spot-on. the two are actually quite similar. both pared down to the essentials. you couldn't follow those thoughts through to a connection if you weren't by yourself and able to ponder it all in your head. so, dining alone does have its advantages.

but, tonight. not sure i'm going to be pondering german aesthetics.  but, there's always people-watching and general observation. that's something you can do more intensely when you're alone and don't have to explain to your dinner companion. tho', husband and i do like to make up stories about all of the others and it's not as fun to do that in your own head. but, observations are cool. for example, at the japanese restaurant, several times i observed people looking quizzically at their food when it came like it wasn't what they expected. i also realized that the primary decor in the restaurant was dead tree branches painted white and i wondered if feng shui was over. or if it has just evolved while i wasn't paying attention? maybe it was just so late nineties/early noughties.

for dining alone, there's always fast food, but i very, very seldom choose that option. somehow those big chain restaurants, which i usually avoid like the plague, also seem like a good option when i'm by myself. outback steakhouse, TGIFriday's, california pizza kitchen. actually CPK is a good dine alone option, because they have lots of small tables and somehow that feels less lonely to sit at a small table.

i usually consider eating in the hotel restaurant to be a cop-out and only to be chosen at last resort, but i have to admit that with the jetlags getting me down at the moment, i just might have to go for that option. what do you do when you dine alone?


Anonymous said...

When I used to be able to travel, I loved to search out restaurants that were more for locals than for tourists, and order something that nobody in my house would ever eat, savoring it all alone. Chain restaurants were strictly off limits.

Nowadays, I often esape in the middle of a a workday from my desk for an hour, and go to the grocery store for an apple and maybe something from the deli, and park the car in (don't shriek) the large cemetery in the center of town, on a brick lane arched over with oak trees. I turn off the car, eat my lunch, and read or play solitaire on my PDA, in absolute silence for an hour. It is golden.

Jaime said...

You know, I have always thought the same thing about going to a movie alone. Why do people not do this more? Why does it seem like such a lonely thing to do when really, you sit there and watch and not talk to the people you are with most of the time anyways!
Strange culture we live in.

julochka said...

mary--totally agree on the chains, but admit that once in hong kong all of the menus i looked just had way too many dishes featuring fish heads, so i went for the outback steakhouse.

jaime--i'm with you on the movies. totally true that you're not talking during the movie anyway, so why have a companion? i think it's just so ingrained in us that we have to hold hands with someone during a movie that it somehow feels wrong. we should start a campaign--movie and dinner alone! :-) it'll be a revolution.

Delena said...

My sister loves to go to movies alone. I want to give that a try someday as I can't get my hubby in a movie theatre at all. As far as eating alone I have only done that in a fast food place. When I worked I would go to the library on my lunch break. I would buy a sandwich and find a hidden corner somewhere by a window. I would read the same book everyday and just memorize what page as was on. It was so relaxing I hated to go back to work!