A few years ago in the Wall Street Journal, my favorite print publication, there was an article about the joys of dining alone. Newly divorced author Kate Christensen talks about her adjustment to enjoying (really) a meal for one. Below is part of the article:
“THERE’S A CERTAIN time of day, after sunset, when people naturally seem to feel the urge to gather by a fire or a stove or a hibachi or another common source of heat and food, and hunker down together to eat and drink. Call it the blue hour. After my husband, Jon, and I split up, I started thinking of the blue hour as a hump I had to get over, a period of restless bleakness during which I yearned for company.
I had moved to a big, airy railroad apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Suddenly I missed Jon, missed being married. I wanted to go out and eat in a restaurant just to be around other people. On some especially blue evenings, I almost, but never actually, wished I had a roommate. And I regretted the solitary nature of the writer’s life—other people, normal working people, spent their days with co-workers, rode the subway home with a crowd, walked through thronged streets. I worked at home, all by myself. I had my beloved, bat-eared dog, Dingo, but a dog just doesn’t cut it in the blue hour.
Although it was preferable to eat with other people, cooking for one, that one being my own damn self, was the most effective way I had of shaking that sense of desolation. As soon as the sun went down, I went into the kitchen and started chopping things. I made just enough dinner for me, a simple and comforting and filling meal—one broiled chicken thigh, or even two, with a baked sweet potato and a side of garlicky red chard, for example; or cauliflower curry over basmati rice served with cashews, Sriracha hot sauce and cilantro; or a pasta puttanesca with anchovies, capers, olives and hot red pepper flakes.
I always made sure I had plenty of food in the refrigerator and cupboard; keeping the kitchen well stocked was another comforting bulwark against loneliness. And I became much neater as well. The house Jon and I shared was generally messy and cluttered, dishes in the sink, laundry not put away, stuff covering the dining room table, and I didn’t care and neither did Jon. In my own place, I kept everything neat and shipshape.
When the meal was ready, I heaped up a plate, sat at a table set for one and feasted. I looked out the window at headlights and taillights streaming beneath the spangled struts of the Kosciuszko Bridge. I found that I looked out the window a lot more often than I had when there was someone else in the house with me, as if a view of the outside world were some way of feeling connected to other people. Sometimes I put music on. Sometimes I lit a candle. Sometimes I wolfed down the food so I could get back to my email. I always drank wine.
These meals for one had a counterintuitive, resonant coziness. Eating by myself in my own apartment, single and alone again for the first time in many years, I should have felt, but did not feel, sad. Because I had taken the trouble to make myself a real dinner, I felt nurtured and cared for, if only by myself. Eating alone was freeing, too; I didn’t have to make conversation.
I got to focus on my food without thinking about anyone else’s needs at all, and that made it taste even better. I didn’t have to share my dinner or worry about taking too much food: It was all mine. I could sing along to the music and wear pajamas and eat with my hands and drink the whole bottle of wine and lick my plate clean. Who would know or care?”
If you’re alone this weekend, fix yourself something spectacular, savor every single bite, and as Kate suggests, “lick the plate” if you want to!
” He (God) fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! He gives justice to all who are treated unfairly.” Psalm 103: 5-6 (NLT)