I had somewhat taken the family meal, complete with laughter, taste comparisons, and stories, for granted. I'd grown up in a family, had a large extended family and most of the time our gatherings revolved around meals. Even now we gather for Sunday afternoon dinners. Even our funerals end with a meal.
Years ago, on a solo trip to New York, I became aware of how much the enjoyment of my meals depended on company. For the first time, I was eating out consistently and alone. Sure, there were other people eating alone, but the contrast between the silent, book reading or phone tapping patrons, and the tables of merriment, were not so subtle. I wanted to join the big Italian family or the girls' night out.
The day came when I did return to New York with company. It started with two families and became three when my friend's sister and her husband the veterinarian, Dr. Pet, joined us from Boston. We were six adults and seven children eating pizza at a late night diner, waiters were combining tables, and yes we had laughter.
The Velvet Taco and family, Chicago Illinois, March 2017
However, the need to eat is more frequent than the availability of friends and family, so I've learned to enjoy, even saturate myself in the pleasures of solo dining.
Requisite is gaining comfort in my aloneness. Eating alone doesn't mean I am friendless. Nor should I be self conscious while participating in what is usually a group activity.
Choosing the right table and immersing in the ambiance is another enjoyment factor. If dining alfresco, I try to choose a table front and center to sidewalk traffic, so I can people watch.
While waiting for food, I do like to have a task: making notes, mapping out a location, reading a pamphlet or an article, deep thinking.
Gratitude is at the foundation of every good meal. While gathered around the table at home, it's prayers before forks. It's a moment to pause and show gratitude for the abundant blessing of not going hungry. A chance to acknowledge God in so many aspects of life. Yet, I'm not often comfortable with outward prayer in public.It doesn't mean I don't pause and bow my head or not show gratitude for those who have made it possible to relax, eat, and not clean-up.
When the food arrives, I try not to make it a task to get through, but an enjoyable moment of celebrating taste, texture, and time. By myself.
And...when food becomes the only company, make it worthwhile!