The other night I went to my favorite French bakery and restaurant, Chocolate Maven, for un petit dîner du café. The hostess asked me how many I was. Although I was caught off guard by her philosophic question, I responded simply, “it’s just me.” The hostess began to count out three menus. “No, just a table for one,” I insisted. The hostess looked up at me. Her forehead creased and she gave me a look that suggested sympathy. Wait staff around her averted their gazes and clucked their tongues seeming to say too bad.
Despite the wait staff’s grave response, I had a fantastic diner. Alone. I started the night with a piece of warm brioche from the bakery smeared in red and black sea salt dusted butter. I silently savored crisp and cool French-Vietnamese Spring Rolls in a lavender vinaigrette. I privately applauded my chicken dish’s Chimayo Chile blackened crust and the melted layer of Gouda cheese underneath. Unashamed, I sopped up the chicken’s spicy tomatillo-lime sauce with the last of my brioche. I experienced this gustatory bliss in complete silence. I was an piously indulgent nun pursuing flavorful salvation.
I noticed that the diners near my table were significantly more uncomfortable with my solitude than I was. Sharing a meal with another human being is great; it’s a culturally rooted and deeply meaningful medium for interpersonal connection. Yet why is it wrong to enjoy food only to please oneself? I was intimately connected with my meal because I ate it alone. I didn’t need to make conversation with a person across the table. Instead, I was happily obliged to converse with the plate in front of me.