Guest post: solo dining

Today’s post comes from guest blogger Bryony.  Hater of raw celery but avid eater, Bryony has always got lunch on her mind by 10:30am. She never wears black, but doesn’t mind striding to work in dark grey – while listening to BBC Radio 4, of course. Her dirty guilty pleasures are watching EastEnders and dreaming of owning a bigger fridge. With 42 countries under her travelling belt, Bryony shares with us the pleasure of eating alone.

Sometimes considered a necessary evil when travelling, solo dining makes sure you don’t starve and on occasion will be your only chance to dine at the local hot spot.  But would you ever dine solo in your own city?

At lunchtime you’ll find solo diners everywhere.  No one minds sitting in Pret eating a sandwich by themselves; some even relish the escape from the work place, some time to themselves to read or just stare blankly out the window.

But come dinner time and if you can’t find some mates and don’t feel like cooking, the socially acceptable answer seems to be get takeaway and go home.

But before you do, consider these excellent reasons why might you want to break the taboo and go eat out … alone.

You get to eat really good freshly made food from a china plate / bowl.  Boxed up in plastic containers and sweating for 10 minutes while you carry it home leaves most food a little worse for wear.  Spring rolls go soggy, pastas absorb their sauces and even rice seems to solidify into starchy blocks.  And that’s before you’ve subjected it to a few seconds in the microwave to get the temperature back up above lukewarm.

You can focus on the food.  Without conversation to distract you can spend your time actually enjoying what you’re eating.  Has the chef got it right?  What’s missing?  Is this something I might like to try making at home?  Have I finally managed to choose a wine that enhances rather than clashes with the food flavours?

More time for people watching.  Done carefully you can find out quite a lot about your nearby diners.  First date, or five hundredth?  Or my personal favourite: father and daughter, or couple?  And of course without the need to maintain a conversation of your own you’ve all the time in the world to eavesdrop on the conversations around you.  Just remember not to stare.

You can read while you eat.  I’ll be honest, it does make me feel less like a loner, but it also provides the perfect cover for eavesdropping.  And reading while dining is where the Kindle really comes up trumps over books because it’s hands free.  I can hold both my knife and fork, keep reading and not lose my page.  And turning the page is accomplished with just a simple flick of a finger between bites and sips.

It’s bit decadent.  Tonight I spent £30 on three courses and two glasses of wine when I really could have (should have) gone home and eaten the leftovers in the fridge.  But that’s not what I wanted to do.  I wanted to eat out.  I wanted to pretend I lived in a city full of cheap and cheerful trattorias, where the food was so good you’d be crazy not to dine out every night.

If you’re new to solo dining my biggest tip is head for places where you can sit at the bar.  You’ll look a lot less lonely or like you’ve been stood up.  You can also eavesdrop on the staff (whose conversations are often even more interesting than those of the patrons).  And if you’re lucky you might even have a view into the kitchen.

You can follow Bryony on twitter or check out her blog.

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