Good Food Blog
Solo diningPosted at 12:02PM, 31 March 2008 by Andrea McGinniss - Editor, bbcgoodfood.com
I generally love doing things on my own - travelling, shopping, going to the cinema, even watching reality television. But solo dining, I'm sorry to admit, still intimidates me.
I was recently staying alone at a hotel in Glasgow. I loved it, didn't feel lonely for a second - until I had to go to breakfast. I was ushered to the same table each morning, set for two, underneath an unfortunately positioned spotlight that had me wishing I'd packed my favourite paper bag to wear over my head. Around me sat cosy couples looking loved-up and leisurely, and - perhaps I'm being paranoid - slightly sorry for me. I slurped down my coffee, rammed a bit of toast down my throat and got the hell out of there.
There are tried-and-tested techniques I've picked up from all the cool solo-diners I've observed over the years and long to be like, among them: reading the newspaper, a book, the menu, and of course the pretend mobile phone texting trick. But underneath it all I still feel a slight panic that makes the experience more pain than pleasure.
There are lists of articles and even websites dedicated to helping you combat the fear of lone dining...
Ironically, it seems I'm not alone. A quick google search reveals lists of articles and even websites dedicated to helping you combat the fear. Solodining.com recommends I "avoid a bad seat - Don't take a dodgy seat just because you're on your own"; that I "doggy bag wine. It's OK to take home an unfinished bottle when you're dining alone" (don't worry, if I'm alone there won't be leftovers!); and, most importantly, that I "be confident. The most important factor of a satisfying solo experience is your comfort." Fair enough, but all a bit too Dr Phil and airy fairy for me.
A growing number of restaurants, cafes and bars now have the communal table - designed to encourage strangers to sit butt-cheek by jowl and share newspapers, honey pots and perhaps even conversation! There is also the added comfort of free wi-fi creeping in to almost everywhere, so you can access your Facebook and feel a little less friend-less, and look a little more busy and important too - but who wants more crumbs in their keyboard?
Personally, communal dining doesn't do it for me either. The last time I tried it I was plonked between a shifty-looking gent wearing a Mac (the raincoat, not the computer) and a screeching bunch of exchange students. Plus who wants strangers staring at them from close quarters as you get to grips with a slippery set of chopsticks? Unless it is my hand-picked 'commune' (or George Clooney popping in for a pick-me-up), not me! Just give me the dark table in the corner and I'll be fine. Or better still, put it in a bag and I'll find a park and slightly-less self-consciously scoff it there instead.
Love it or loathe it - where do you 'sit' on the solo dining/communal table experience?