The Enigma That is Dining Alone

Would you agree that dining is a social experience for the most part? If so, to what do you attribute such notions? It could be that dining is social because we have made it that way. On the other hand, the social aspects of dining together might be inherent to what makes us human beings. No one really knows. Thus, solo dining is an enigma of sorts.

Consider your own situation. When you dine at home with family members, there are certain expectations that normally come with that practice. It is also a safe bet that you don’t adhere to such practices when you are alone. Why not? What is it about dining alone that makes the experience so different?

If you are like most people, nearly all your public dining experiences take place with friends or family members by your side. If you do visit a restaurant alone, it’s probably a rare occasion. For example, you might visit Salt Lake City’s Taqueria27 alone because you are between activities and can’t get home. How does that differ from dining with others?

The Take a Book Advice

It is interesting to research the ‘expert’ advice given to people who dine alone in public spaces. One of the most common pieces of advice is to take a book. The point here is to take a book with you so as to give yourself something to do while dining. Otherwise you might be tempted to look around the restaurant and stare at other diners.

More fascinating than the advice itself is observing someone dining alone without a book or newspaper to occupy the mind. The folks at Taqueria27 say some solo diners do indeed look around the restaurant as they dine. But others seem to savor the time alone. They savor the experience of enjoying their meals as though they were eating for the very first time.

Advising solo diners to take a book isn’t a bad thing. Implementing such advice is one way to relieve the anxiety that often comes with visiting a restaurant alone. But solo diners don’t have to read. They also do not have to behave as isolationists. They can engage in friendly conversation with their servers. They can be just as witty and delightful as they would be with friends. There are not as many rules as you might think.

Fewer Rules at Home

Solo dining at home comes with even fewer rules. When you’re going it alone, you don’t necessarily have to prepare a five-course meal. You do not even have to prepare a single course. Dining alone could be as simple as reducing the volum of a block of cheese and a box of crackers considerably.

Interestingly enough, research cited by the New York Times shows that people associate a level of shame about dining alone at home. When asked, they talk about having to settle for takeout leftovers or eating breakfast cereal for dinner. Few people talk about solo dining at home as a positive experience.

It seems as though there are even fewer rules for dining at home alone. So why does it seem like such a negative thing? Shouldn’t we all be celebrating the opportunity to eat what we please, when we please, without any formal rules attached?

Indeed, dining alone is an enigma whether experienced at a Taqueria27 location or one’s own home. It is something we do not quite understand in terms of its social and cultural implications. Needless to say that solo dining will continue being a thing for as long as human beings roam the earth.