Alone, Not Lonely

Oct 04, 2019 • Connie Matisse

Alone, Not Lonely

Alone, Not Lonely

A cupcake in the bathtub. Delivery pizza on the couch. A warm meal at the bar of a neighborhood standby with a crossword for company. A Sunday spent alone at the grocery store, taking your time in every aisle, with a whole afternoon to prepare and enjoy—with no pressure to please anyone but yourself—a three-course meal inspired by a childhood vacation. 

There’s a lot of conversation buzzing around Disconnection in the Digital Age. Screens as walls between ourselves and those around us. Our cultural inability to form intimate, reciprocal human relationships. You know what I’m talking about. The antidote that most offer is—more connection! Dinner parties! Breaking bread with friends and strangers! 

East Fork loves an over-the-top meal and an overflowing table. But today we want to extend an invitation to pull up a seat at a table set for one. 

A cupcake in the bathtub. Delivery pizza on the couch. A warm meal at the bar of a neighborhood standby with a crossword for company. A Sunday spent alone at the grocery store, taking your time in every aisle, with a whole afternoon to prepare and enjoy—with no pressure to please anyone but yourself—a three-course meal inspired by a childhood vacation. 

Our culture's growing obsession with health and wellness is so often body and class shaming dressed up in a gown of moral righteousness. It can all be so hard to navigate. Eating alone is a great time to work on unlearning the harmful stories that our classist, image-obsessed, society has been whispering in our ears and jamming down our throats all our lives. It's a great time to practice saying things like:

"I'm eating this cake alone because it tastes so damn delicious and I just wanna savor it" instead of "I'm eating this cake alone because I'm bad and can't help myself."

or

"I'm eating this big, raw salad alone because it's delicious and nourishing for my body" instead of "I'm eating this salad on my Instagram feed so that people will know that I'm good and disciplined and virtuous."

An image of someone eating alone can shout: Shame! Depression! Isolation! But flip the narrative and eating alone can provide us with the opportunity for a connection with our own, personal, corporal humanity in a way that eating in the company of others can't.  

I'm on my phone all day every single day for work and, of course, I can feel how it disconnects me from those around me.  But more than anything, it's disconnected me from myself. It's stripped away my comfortable, easy relationship with solitude I've spent a lifetime developing. Eating alone used to be my church—truly, the time I felt most connected to the whole damn universe.  I still enjoy it, but lately when I'm eating alone—whether in a restaurant while travelling for work or at home, before the kids wake up—I find myself aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, hardly aware of the food in front me and my own experience of it. Anyone else feel that? And since I've developed this habit and stopped paying attention to my senses while I eat, I've noticed that this negative self-talk I thought I'd gotten rid of for good back in my early 20s has started to weasel its way back into my sub-conscious.  I'm ready to reconnect.

In the comment section below, tell us about a time when you enjoyed a meal or a snack in your own company. A time when you were really, truly present with your own taste buds, desire, pleasure, humanity.  

“When I was writing my thesis in college, I would go get sushi by myself at the end of a long week. I'd blast my sinuses with Wasabi to clear some stress. All the sushi chefs and staff knew me and when they found out I studied Japanese, they started giving me a couple free pieces of fish every time I went in.” - Julia True

 

"My favorite thing to eat when I'm all alone is oxtail.  I can make it, but it's way better when my grandma or mom does.  I like to share food, but not when I'm eating oxtail.  That's all mine." - JaQuan LaPierre

 

“Seriously, while it is more fun sharing a meal with the one you love, New Haven style Pizza can be great with a group or all by yourself!” - Scott Haight

 

“I once trekked across London to eat banana pancakes at a specific breakfast spot. I was the only person in the restaurant eating alone,  but I didn’t mind: what better way to enjoy your own company than with a delicious meal?” - Virginia Knight

 

 

“In the late afternoon half way through my trip [to Paris] I ordered a Croque Monsuier (white sauce cheese and ham--a glorified fried bologna sandwich) wrapped to go after a long night and perhaps a few too many Kronenbourgs. Plucking it out of my tote (still warm!) on the steps outside of le Petit Palais was a fabulous reminder to take comfort in solitude.” - Sara Melosh

 

 

“There’s nothing better than eating a big bowl of cereal in absolute peace and quiet or when watching YouTube. It's perfect quick snack fix, second only to PB&J.” — Jerome Williams 

 

 

Comments (30)

  • Josie

    I was in New Orleans for work. It was my first time there, my first time traveling alone, and before I had a smart phone. All I knew about New Orleans was Bourbon Street and street cars. I decided to take one of the street cars to the end of its line and along the way I saw a packed restaurant. I decided then to treat myself to dinner and as a party of one, I got right in. I sat at the chef’s counter overlooking the kitchen at Cochon, my first time dining alone and my first time at a seat overlooking a kitchen. I took all of their recommendations on what to order and the chef sent me a couple of extra things to try. It was unforgettable. I don’t think that would have happened quite in that way if I was dining with someone else.

  • Louise

    What a warming message—and the unspoken text is the pleasure of selecting a special plate or cup for that solo meal. This reminded me of discovering the essay by MFK Fisher, “A is for dining Alone” (The Art of Eating, 1976, pp. 577-83), just when I had moved to a new city, started a new job, and didn’t know many people to share meals with. Her words gave me the courage to walk into a likely local restaurant, take a seat by myself, and order a delicious meal with a glass of wine. And no book! Just myself engaging with the food.

  • Sara Curtin

    The stage is set.
    My 8 month old twins are napping upstairs in their cribs. For 30 min? Two hours? 10 seconds? Who’s to say? I plate 2 very runny yolks in lightly set whites on overtoasted buttered toast. East Fork side plate in eggshell, of course. I set the plate on our kitchen island that’s not really a kitchen island but it’s high enough for me to rest my elbows on and stare blankly into the next room. I look down at my plate – no fork. A fork would be at least 5 steps away. 10 if you count there AND back. I say “fuck it”, pick up the first fried egg (sans toast), lift it high, and burst the yolk in my mouth. Same with the second egg. Another standing breakfast for 1 tired new mom, but it’s fucking delicious and the plating was 💯.

  • Jane Dagmi

    A friend shared your blog with me and it was this first thing I read as I was sitting down to work….with a big bowl of salad at my side. My boyfriend went to England for a week, so I’m dining solo. It took 1/2 hour to prepare — it’s not just any salad. This one has roasted carrots, sauteed crispy mushrooms, steamed corn, toasted almonds, lemon-marinated fennel, some fetal, and a base of butter lettuce and kale. I make my own dressing and I eat it out of a large glass bowl. I poured myself a small glass of red wine too, to further elevate the experience. What I love about dining by computer is that I eat slower.

  • Jessie

    My partner works nights, so I end up eating alone quite often. I never mind it, but it ends up usually being a quick meal of whatever I can scrounge.
    One Friday, after work, I decided to make my favorite pasta dish (carbonara with a heavy addition of mushrooms) and just stay in for the night. I turned “Moonstruck” on the TV, ate the pasta out of the giant metal bowl I mixed it in, and drank wine without any judgement of how much of the bottle I got through. I wasn’t eating because I was sad or lonely. I was just enjoying one of my favorite movies (Nick Cage and Cher at their prime BTW) with some of the best damn carbonara I’d ever made. It was lovely, and I still dream of the day I can have a kitchen that rivals Rose Castorini’s where I can make that pasta for myself again and again.

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Journal

Seconds To Some

Seconds To Some

To prepare for our seconds sale coming up this Saturday at our new production space on Short McDowell, I chatted with Amanda, East Fork potter and Production Manager, about quality control.