I have always loved dining alone.
You can order whatever you want. No one else wants to share, no one else will judge, no one else will even pay you mind. Except for your waitress or waiter, who will, on occasion, stop before writing down your request, pause for a beat, and say, “Wow. That sounds like the perfect order.”
They will be right. It will be perfect, because it will be yours, of the moment, and of your temporal appetite.
Don’t get me wrong. I love dining with The Unicorn. We have amazingly similar taste, and an uncanny ability to reach happy compromise about dishes to split and share and taste and devour. We both appreciate really good food.
But over the past week or so, I’ve been dining alone a lot, both as a response to the bustle of the holidays (I may seem extroverted, but after a long period of Great Socialness, even I need a moment of watchful silence…), and because we are both packing up our places and getting ready to move in together, and that has necessitated more evenings apart than we might otherwise plan.
The end result of this all, of course, will be a new house all our own, with plenty of time together, and plenty of shared meals. But in the meantime, there are nights like the other night, when, exhausted from packing and weary of thinking, I stumbled into one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants for what was likely to be my final dinner there before I was more than a two-block walk away. I was planning a restrained, vegetarian meal—it was, after all, Meatless Monday—but then they threw down the specials list, which included a 12 oz. dry-aged Marin Sun Farms ribeye with two sides.
When I walked in, I had a splitting headache. But then I sat there, quietly, savoring my dinner and listening to the conversations around me and relishing that I wasn’t talking, wasn’t interacting, was just experiencing my dinner. By the end of the meal, my headache had settled back to a dull roar, not gone, but certainly much more manageable. (Let’s not attribute miracles to dinner, after all.)
It’s not that mindful eating can’t happen with another person. It’s just that in this week or two of moving prep, I’ve had more opportunities to just sit with myself than I’ve had in a long time. And I’m grateful for those opportunities.
I encourage you to find those moments for yourself. Even if you’re a parent, or a spouse, or a social hub who has more friends than you know what to do with, take a meal and spend it alone. Look around at the people with you. Listen to the conversations around you. Put down your phone. Chew your food without just swallowing it whole, and savor the whole meal.
It doesn’t require steak, but it does require your full attention. And it might just cure whatever ails you at the moment.
And for the record, I did sit there and think about how much The Unicorn would have loved that meal. And I missed him. But we have the rest of our lives to eat steak together. This particular night, it was luxurious to dine alone.