Eating is, after all, the thing we all do, we all enjoy doing, we all have to do to stay alive. It's the common denominator among us all: a shared need, a shared pleasure. In fact maybe it's our common need for nourishment that makes us social by nature. Maybe this is why we like eating together, why eating is at its best when it's done with others.
Or at its worst. Depending on the others you're eating with.
But even when bad drama is being served up and the menu is destined to go down in heartburn, social gatherings large or small usually include nourishment of some form.
Which begs the chicken-or-egg question: Do we get together as an excuse for a having meal or do we have a meal as an excuse for getting together?
But while we're all social eaters, we're all solitary eaters, too, some of us more than others, either by circumstance or preference. I'd venture to say that sometimes our circumstance becomes our preference.
My own circumstance is such that I'm a frequent solo eater, usually at home in front of the TV or the newspaper or my computer, sometimes out at Panera or Tim Horton's or the various fast-food venues.
In truth my favorite spot for a solitary nosh is in my car.
I like to eat Kroger sushi in my car in the Kroger parking lot.
I like to eat Walmart soft-pretzels with cheese dip in my car in the Walmart parking lot.
When my daughter Theresa used to sing in the Columbus Children's Choir I used to take her to her Saturday morning rehearsal downtown and while I waited I used to like to drive over to the Parson's Avenue Krogers and eat a doughnut meal: a jelly doughnut for the main course and a cream doughnut for dessert, washed down with an ice-cold diet coke. (As you can imagine, back then I weighed 14 pounds more than I do now).
The one frontier I've yet to conquer is to be able to walk into a sit-down restaurant by myself, order a meal by myself and eat by myself. I've thought many times about doing it - after all, I take myself to out the movies often enough - and I feel I'm at the threshold, but not yet through the door.
It's not even that I've never done such a thing before; in fact, I've often eaten out in restaurants while traveling and feel perfectly comfortable doing so. While traveling.
But it feels different when you're on your home turf.
Which makes me wonder: do other people eat out solo around their own 'hood?
I would like to try one of these nights when I'm hanging out with myself.
I remember that when I lived in Paris, where eating out solo is (or at least was at the time) de riguer - that is, about everybody seemed to do it, even young people - there was a little cafe where I would go every day for lunch. I always ordered the same thing: un sandwich de camembert et un coca-cola, s'il vous plait. They knew me there. I think they were always waiting for me.
It seems to me that that would likewise be the best approach for starting up an eating-out-solo agenda : find a place where it feels comfortable, go there all the time, become a regular. Maybe meet some other regulars.
As a solitary eater I'm still evolving. But maybe I'll get there.