We’ve all done it. Situations vary but we all have eaten alone.
The stereotype is that it can be depressing or seem gluttonous. Pictures come up of bad breakups or sitting in sweats watching Netflix or spending a holiday alone.
Perhaps the idea seems so lowly because so many of us associate eating with socializing – so how could one possibly have fun being alone with their meal?
I used to think this way.
In high school, it seemed ludicrous to want to be by yourself in the cafeteria. Walking by a kid picking through their food alone at the end of the table, my heart would ache. I too felt so odd if I ended up being alone at lunch…a stupid stigma that eating by yourself made one a loser.
I would come home and see my mom in our lush backyard, sipping her tea and munching on pistachios, completely at peace. I wondered what this serenity was that she had found.
In college, I began to learn.
I sought out places on campus that were less populated, had beautiful architecture or scenery, and set up a little camp where I could read, study, or just be with my own thoughts…and some good snacks of course.
Every taste became so much more. How I could take time to appreciate the flavor, texture, the very design of what I was eating. Whatever stress or worries that were going on in the outside world, they could not find me here.
When I moved to Chicago this fall, I was incredibly excited about what the new city could bring. I was also very scared and nervous that I would somehow not like it.
My fiancé Dallas has been so busy with medical school, so much of my exploring Chicago has been done on my own. At first, I thought I was going to be like the loner in high school. Going into restaurants or parks or museums all alone, people wondering who is this woman who dare be by herself as she tours the city!!
Admittedly, it was strange. I missed Dallas incredibly. I soon found myself turning into a hermit – not wanting to venture out into the new. Instead, I huddled by my laptop or television, looking at other people’s lives and adventures instead. Along with adjusting to the changes from L.A. to Chicago, I was searching for a new job. The rejections and “sorry, we’ve already filled that position” brought me further down. I’m sure many of you have been there…
One of the big reasons I started “One Girl Many Plates” was to bring me out of the funk and it definitely started to do so. I told myself I have to have some motivation to get out and what better way than to go, see, taste, try, and write about it all after!
As I started to find myself again, I rediscovered also what it was I loved about food so much – the experience. Seeing how it is made and put together, learning about its history, hearing other people’s stories and backgrounds with it, watching one item be transformed into multiple things. The whole journey is so incredible, fascinating, and full of surprises.
A couple weeks ago, I went in to an interview for a job to be an editorial assistant for Womensforum.com. The interview came from hard work, determination, hope, and faith. I got the job and felt like crying as I walked out of the building. As I started to walk towards the train home, I thought “No, don’t go home just yet. Celebrate this with yourself!”
I went to Pars Cove, a charming Persian restaurant in Lincoln Park. It was in the late afternoon so I was completely alone in the restaurant. It was exactly what I needed.
As the hostess led me to a table, she asked if I would have anyone joining. Shaking my head and smiling, I said “No, just me.”
I chatted with the hostess about my mother being from Isfahan as I ordered my food. She helped me decide on dishes that made us both think of home and love – kashk (baked eggplant), mast o khiar (yogurt with mint and cucumbers), shirazi salad (chopped cucumber, tomato, onions), chicken kabob, and of course plenty of warm, toasty bread.
Then as a surprise, my waiter brought over a little ice cream with honey and cherries – a token of thanks for coming by and congratulating me on success in this new city.
Sipping on soothing chai tea and looking out at the cloudy sky, I was completely at peace…
I was at peace not just because of getting a good job…not just because the food was excellent and homely…it was that I was accepting my life and where I was at in that moment.
There were no awkward or weird feelings about being the only person in the restaurant. I was treating myself, telling myself I should never feel guilty or sad about being in a situation like this.
This meal and the many more solo ones to come would all be time for myself to relax, think, and just be.
Eating alone can be sad or a sanctuary.
It’s really what you make of the experience. I’ve seen and learned how to enjoy eating alone. These are precious moments with myself…and doubt I’ll ever feel lonely eating alone again.