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The pleasure of eating alone without feeling alone. What sort of pleasure are we referring to? That of preparing a dish exclusively for ourselves and enjoying it in our own company. So, just for once, why not say no to hasty, makeshift meals such as TV snacks or street food consumed during the lunch break, in favour of spending quality time in an atmosphere of spiritual intimacy, without compromising the quality of what we put on the table.
The party of one topic has inspired a host of books and posts in food blogs dispensing advice on what to cook for yourself when alone and in need of some pampering, on one condition: it is mandatory to view such moments as little curative and regenerative gems, ideal for taking a breather, treating yourself to some my-time and, just for once, forgetting the pressure of having to cook something that others like.
Party of one
No, we are not trying prove that solitude is an ideal way of life. On the contrary, this is an exception to the pleasant rule of conviviality. Whoever chooses to eat alone at times is usually someone who enjoys conversation around the kitchen hob or sitting at a restaurant table. Someone who tries, for at least once, to widen his cultural, emotional and food experience. You also need a fair amount of courage to do so: the social stigma of eating out alone for instance has to be set aside, along with the qualms associated with it.
Global trends are unequivocal: not only is it common to eat alone at breakfast or lunchtime in the interests of time management, but the day often ends with a solitary restaurant meal in the evening as well. An analysis by OpenTable reveals that reservations for parties of one have grown by 62 % in the USA, making them the fastest growing table party size.
Eenmaal restaurant, the venue for those eating alone
To prove that a party of one is more of a pleasure than a constriction, a Eenmaal restaurant has opened in Amsterdam furnished with nothing but small, narrow tables. Here, it is impossible to get a table for two. What its customers most appreciate is the total absence of large noisy parties and families, the sense of quiet meditation during the meal, but also the possibility to make friends with whoever is sitting beside you, and a less daunting attitude on the part of the waiter.
Everyone shares the same sensation and the comments are unanimous: the occasional experience of eating alone puts the accent on the food and enables you to fully appreciate the flavour of what you are eating, which amply compensates for the lack of company.
One long bar counter
The growth of this phenomenon down through the years (in the USA alone, according to a Pew Research, 45% of the adult population dine alone every day) has also affected the restaurant offering and some chefs, in collaboration with architects, have started to study venues that are more hospitable for lone diners. For instance, bar counters are becoming longer and wider to comfortably seat customers in a more informal manner, and long bench tables are appearing where everyone can sit down together, even if they are strangers, to share the convivial atmosphere of a large group. None of this has a negative impact on food quality: eating alone is not a fast food experience but, on the contrary, a more intimate immersion in the dish being served.
When the cold weather sets in, not only does dining out alone become more frequent, but the occasions for cooking and eating on one’s own at home become the rule rather than the exception. As autumn turns to winter, in fact, the appeal of solitary domestic meals soars (up to 50%), partly due to laziness, so cooking for oneself becomes a treat well worth doing properly: in this respect it is advisable to approach the task at a leisurely pace, respect the necessary cooking times, experiment the use of new ingredients and methods, get carried away by some fine relaxing music and stop watching the clock. Whether you are dining out or eating a home-cooked meal alone, there is one tip that always holds good: switch off your mobile phones and don’t succumb to the temptation to make tablets and Smartphones your dining companions.