Sooner or Later (We all eat alone)

I had a really yummy meal tonight at Snakebean, a great little cafe/take-away on Oxford Street. It was a lotus root salad, with pork and prawns (with a small amount of accompanying rice). Accompanied by a glass of Pinot Grigio, it was the perfect end to a long and busy day that was book-ended by an early start and Swedish class from 6-8pm.

And like most meals, these days, I ate this meal alone. I know meals are supposed to be about sharing and celebration and all that stuff, but I actually quite enjoy eating alone.

Of course admitting to that is a bit of a taboo. I was chatting today, for example, with a colleague who is in Sydney for a couple of weeks. When I asked her how she was going, she said it was very strange for her to have to eat alone. “I felt like a total loser, so I went back to my hotel room”.

It was then I told her how often I happily eat alone. There’s a local pizza place, I told her, where I often go to on the weekend. Armed with a copy of the newspaper – usually “The Weekend Australian” – I walk in, order a glass of house white, a pizetta, and read the arts pages and the inquirer section. I’m like a pig in mud, in many ways, doing three of the things I enjoy most – reading, eating and drinking.

And it’s not just in Sydney that I’ll do this. A few years ago, visiting Tamworth, I found myself sitting alone at the bistro at the local pub. I’d worked a long hard day and I was absolutely bloody exhausted. It was one of those pubs where they offer you the opportunity to cook the steak yourself. To be honest, I can’t see the sense in paying $20 for a steak that you have to cook yourself. So when they asked me for my order, I said, “I’ll have anything I don’t have to cook myself”. I had a schnitzel, or something, as I recall. Sitting by myself and reading the newspaper, I was having a great old time. It was obviously all too odd for the staff, however, who kept coming up to me asking if I was okay, and did I want some company. Very sweet in a way, but also very annoying. You could see in their eyes the confusion they had in seeing a bloke seemingly enjoying sitting all by himself.

Surely there must be hundreds of salesmen who would pass through the pub each year who would be all by themselves? On the way home tonight I noticed most of the restaurants on Crown Street had at least two or three lone men enjoying dinner. “Sooner or later”, to misquote Cher, “…we all eat alone”.

7 Replies to “Sooner or Later (We all eat alone)”

  1. I often eat out alone and love it and don’t understand people who say they feel awkward. As you say, nothing could be better than sitting with a book or a paper and a glass of wine!

  2. I eat alone quite often as well and don’t mind it, but the only time I ever felt uncomfortable was when I used to travel a lot for work. Especially when I was in the US. I used to find that I would get that sort of ‘are you ok?’ attention and it got a bit irksome.

    If I’m eating alone I guess I tend to eat at a more relaxed cafe sort of place, rather than a full on ‘restaurant’. I think you tend to get more stares and attention if you go to the sort of place where people normally go for celebrations, or on dates.

  3. You should do what you feel comfortable with. If eating alone is a fun activity for you, then just do it. Who cares what Mr & Mrs Bland have to say about it?

    I’m not sure about having breakfast with the Weekend Australian and a glass of wine…that could lead to alcoholism!

  4. I love your pages here James! I often choose to eat alone and yes I too experience those furtive glances from all those couples and families. Hmmm note to self I used to get glances from single young men or married old men but now its just that … oh she is all by herself kind of look which is only one step away from becoming totally invisible! ;o) BTW I love eating out by myself – going to movies by myself and walking by myself too. xoxox

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